LAS VEGAS — Senator Elizabeth Warren has built her presidential campaign to embody her hatred of the corrupting influence of money in politics, but on Thursday she said she has no choice but to accept a super PAC’s help.
“If all the candidates want to get rid of super PACs, count me in and I’ll lead the charge, but that’s how it has to be,” Warren said. “It can’t be the case that a bunch of people keep them and only one or two don’t.”
It amounts to a major shift for a candidate who has sworn off exclusive fund-raisers and said at the outset of her presidential campaign that she would not accept money from political action committees or ask billionaires to form a super PAC, an outside fund-raising apparatus that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, to help her.
But when a super PAC called “Persist PAC” formed on Tuesday and began airing ads for her in Nevada, which holds its caucuses on Saturday, her campaign said her position on super PACs had not changed. Still, the campaign did not disavow the effort or call on the group to stop supporting her.
Warren’s comments Thursday seemed to be an acknowledgement that certain aspects of her campaign’s purity are no longer tenable in a race against a self-funding billionaire who has poured more than $400 million into the race and several rivals with super PACs of their own, but they could open her up to charges of hypocrisy. At a debate in December, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg memorably warned her against setting purity tests “you yourself cannot pass.”
Warren is not alone in coming around to the help of an organization that can raise unlimited funds. Former vice president Joe Biden said he did not want outside help for his presidential bid, but dropped that opposition when the Unite the Country super PAC formed to assist his struggling campaign in the fall. Buttigieg gets help from the group VoteVets.
And Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a pointed critic of the role of money in politics, gets support from the dark money group Our Revolution.
“We reached the point a few weeks ago, where all of the men who are still in this race and on the debate stage all had either super PACs, or they were multi-billionaires and could just, you know, rummage around their sock drawers and find enough money to be able to fund a campaign,” Warren said, speaking outside of a campaign office in North Las Vegas on Thursday.
“The only people who didn't have them, were the two women,” she said, referring to herself and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, “and at that point, there were some women around the country who said, you know, that's just not right.”
A super PAC supporting Klobuchar has also emerged in recent days. The group EMILY’s List said it had contributed to that group, as well as to the one supporting Warren.