Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is making a late entrance into the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, a surprise run funded primarily through massive contributions to an affiliated outside group.
Patrick, an executive at investment firm Bain Capital, reportedly sees himself as a moderate candidate who can win over progressives. But his time in the private equity field — and financial backing from private equity executives — could make him a target of progressive challengers.
Patrick’s Reason to Believe PAC, launched in 2018, brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars from just a handful of wealthy donors. It then spent a large chunk of that cash on campaign consulting and polling to prepare Patrick for a presidential run.
As a hybrid PAC, Patrick’s group was able to accept unlimited contributions. And it did. Just six donors accounted for $620,000, making up nearly 85 percent of its total. A massive $350,000 came from Paul and Dan Fireman, who manage a private equity firm in Massachusetts. Another $70,000 came directly from a corporation, New England real estate firm Mark Development LLC.
Entering 2020, Patrick’s PAC took in $114,500 from three donors, including $50,000 from Joshua Boger, founder of Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals.
The PAC swiftly put that cash to use. Between the last two cycles, the PAC shelled out $240,000 on campaign strategy and consulting and $12,700 on polling. It also spent six figures for “software development” to bolster Patrick’s campaign infrastructure.
Although independent expenditure groups are barred from coordinating with candidates, Patrick was not a candidate for office when his PAC was spending big to prepare for a presidential run.
It’s common for presidential hopefuls to launch PACs that pay for the groundwork needed to launch a campaign. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg similarly launched a hybrid PAC in 2017 before kicking off his presidential bid. Several other current and former presidential candidates, including John Hickenlooper and Joe Biden, launched leadership PACs that spent on consulting and polling.
Patrick’s entrance comes as Democratic power players yearn for a candidate who they believe can beat President Donald Trump in 2020. A recent New York Times poll found that Biden performs better than Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in key swing states. But major donors aren’t convinced Biden has what it takes to win the primary, which is what reportedly prompted billionaire Michael Bloomberg to consider a White House run.
Unlike Bloomberg, Patrick has already missed the deadline to appear on the primary ballot in Arkansas and Alabama. Faced with Democratic National Committee rules that require candidates to have at least 200,000 unique donors to appear in December’s debates, Patrick has an uphill battle ahead.
“I recognize running for president is a Hail Mary under any circumstances. This is a Hail Mary from two stadiums over,” Patrick told the Boston Globe.