Sen. Elizabeth Warren has repeatedly insisted she’s not running for president in 2016 — and late last week the liberal Massachusetts Democrat put it in writing, sending a letter through her election lawyer disavowing all ties to the grass-roots “Ready for Warren” political action committee.
“This letter serves as a formal disavowal of the organization and its activity,” Marc E. Elias, Ms. Warren’s attorney, wrote to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). “The senator has not, and does not, explicitly or implicitly, authorize, endorse or otherwise approve of the organization’s activities.”
Mr. Elias added that Ms. Warren had publicly announced that she would not run for president in 2016 and urged supporters to focus on important Senate races in 2014, instead of confusing donors “about a nonexistent run for president.” But many on the party’s left have pushed the onetime Harvard professor to challenge front-runner Hillary Clinton.
The letter was first reported by The Boston Globe.
In a statement on Monday, the superPAC said it would continue “full steam ahead” with its fundraising efforts of Ms. Warren’s behalf.
“We will continue full steam ahead with our campaign to draft Senator Warren to run for president in 2016, because we believe she is the best person for the job,” PAC head Erica Sagrans wrote.
There’s nothing illegal about forming a PAC to back someone, even if that person doesn’t want the support.
But Ready for Warren could be in violation of a specific part of law because it mentions the Massachusetts Democrat by name.
“There’s a long-standing law on the books that says it’s illegal for a noncandidate committee to use a federal candidate’s name in that committee,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center.
Groups like Ready for Hillary and Draft Ben Carson for President are not in violation because Mrs. Clinton and Dr. Carson are not currently in office. Ms. Warren, by contrast, is a potential candidate for re-election to her Senate seat.
According to the FEC’s guidelines, “A draft committee may use the name of an individual in its official name, but only if the committee name clearly indicates that it is a draft committee.”
It is unclear if the title “Ready for Warren” expressly indicates it is a draft committee.
The FEC did not indicate that any complaints had been filed on the issue.
Ms. Sagrans maintained there is no connection between her group and Ms. Warren, adding that the PAC would continue to “support Warren allies in the November elections and elevate Sen. Warren’s agenda heading into 2016.”
“As a practical matter, you can’t bar a superPAC from operating,” said Michael Toner, a former FEC chairman. “The next best thing you can do is state on a public record that this is not authorized, that this is not endorsed by Warren, and she is not running. That sometimes will slow down a PAC’s operations and its ability to raise money, as opposed to not saying anything.”