The 2024 presidential election is shaping up to be a re-run of the 2020 campaign between Democratic incumbent President Joe Biden and twice impeached former Republican President Donald Trump, the latter of who is the target of several current criminal investigations. But a group of anonymous billionaires and corporate executives under the banner of the No Labels Party have committed $70 million to gain ballot access in all 50 states, laying the groundwork for a potential so-called “unity” presidential ticket, featuring one Democrat and one Republican.
No Labels, a nonprofit organization, was the force behind the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” a group of about 60 conservative centrist members of Congress. No Labels’ leaders say their third-party option is an “insurance policy” that will only be used if the Democratic and Republican nominees for president are not acceptable to their members. The group won’t announce its plan for running a presidential candidate until April 2024 and won’t have to publicly disclose its donors until that announcement.
Democrats worry that a No Labels candidate will divide the anti-Trump vote and boost Trump’s chances of winning re-election by gaining a majority of Electoral College votes. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Andrew Perez, senior editor and reporter at investigative news site The Lever, who examines this scheme to launch a centrist, third-party candidate backed by No Label’s dark money, serving as a front for Wall Street and other corporate interests.
ANDREW PEREZ: No Labels has been around for a while now in D.C. and they are the corporate front group sort of first and foremost, though they would probably dispute that. But it’s understood that their sort of supporters include a lot of ultra-wealthy individuals in the financial sector, private equity industry.
And then we also know one of their donors in the past has been Harlan Crow, the Texas real estate magnate who’s been in the news because of his providing luxury gifts to his friend, Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, gifts that were never disclosed.
But, you know, No Labels has been in the news of late because they are organizing a ballot access campaign nationwide looking to potentially run a third party unity ticket in 2024 with the idea that they would either field a slate of one Democrat, one Republican or maybe some independents.
Operatives in Washington, Democratic operatives are worried that this could really kind of help Donald Trump win again in 2024, that it could really undermine Joe Biden, who is already polling quite poorly to start the 2024 election cycle.
But the thing we focused on in our story is this sort of novelty of what No Labels is doing. And they’re basically trying to run this giant ballot access campaign. They keep citing this number like $70 or $75 million to sort of secure access all around the country and, you know, staff up and all that kind of stuff. And, they may or may not run a candidate. They’re not quite clear yet because they actually have some sort of incentive not to really describe that, because they’re operating under this campaign finance loophole that’s been built in a few past election cycles in 2008 and then again in 2012 that basically allows nonprofits to buy access to secure ballot access around the country without ever disclosing their donors. They’re not considered a political party. They’re not considered a political anything up until the point at which they decide to formally support a federal candidate for office.
SCOTT HARRIS: So they can actually petition to get a ballot line in states across the country for the presidential election in 2024 and not have to disclose any money until they nominate someone to fill that slot on ballots in various states. Is that right?
ANDREW PEREZ: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And it’s my understanding they wouldn’t actually have to disclose money spent in the past, only going forward from that point. So the donors who are funding their efforts now to secure this ballot access, their identities will never have to be disclosed. You’ll never have to know that at all.
SCOTT HARRIS: Hmm. So what’s No Labels about? What is their message to the American electorate? What potentially would their message be to support candidates that they nominate to fill that slot on ballots across the country?
ANDREW PEREZ: We’ve seen this sort of with all of the sort of unity tickets. There’s always this sort of, you know, basically message that, you know, the system isn’t working and that it’s too polarized, too partisan. Americans are not all that partisan. And so they want to create a sort of, you know, groundswell for a moderate ticket.
Basically the idea being if Americans were given the choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, they might just pick Joe Manchin. You know, that’s sort of the premise here.
SCOTT HARRIS: What you’re thinking here is that given the track record of No Labels, that they would probably nominate someone that would be more likely to take votes away from Democrats than Republicans. Is that kind of what you’re seeing here develop from this No Labels strategy?
ANDREW PEREZ: I think there is a definite sense that you know, Republicans are more firm in their sort of support for very conservative candidates versus Democrats like the Democratic party at this point is more of a big tent party. Progressives, liberals, moderates. So they could stand to lose more ground. There’s been early polling suggesting that this effort would undermine Democrats more than Republicans.
It is sort of hard to speculate about that, right? But Democratic groups are definitely taking that issue seriously. They’re treating it like a serious issue that this would hurt Democrats more than Republicans.
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Andrew Perez (16:50) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
For the best listening experience and to never miss an episode, subscribe to Between The Lines on your favorite podcast app or platform: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Tunein + Alexa, Castbox, Overcast, Podfriend, iHeartRadio, Castro, Pocket Casts, RSS Feed.