News

The Beto O’Rourke PAC

About two months after dropping out of the 2020 presidential race, Beto O’Rourke formed a new PAC “to boost Texas Democrats in the 2020 elections.” The PAC’s purpose is “registering Texans to vote.” [1]

The PAC was formed on December 13, 2019, when Beto O’Rourke filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) forming Powered by People. The paperwork was filed by Gwendolyn Pulido. Powered by People is classified as a Political Action Committee (PAC). [2]

O’Rourke’s PAC is setup as a “hybrid PAC” under FEC rules. A hybrid PAC keeps two cash accounts. One account limits annual contributions to $5,000 annually and the other account accepts unlimited amounts of money, which traditional super PACs use.

However, in the case of the Powered by People PAC, although not required by the FEC, the O’Rourke PAC has limited itself to contributions up to the $5,000 annual limit per individual, according to the documents it filed with the FEC.

The latest financial reports filed with the FEC on December 31, 2020 shows that Powered by People had $247,436.85 in cash, an increase of $159,546.74 from the $87,890.11 the PAC reported at the beginning of 2020. [2]

It should be noted that the PAC is not O’Rourke’s campaign contributions account for running for office.

PAC Activities

By June 2020, the Powered by People PAC had “met their goal of contacting more than 350,000 Democrats recently moved to Texas” but had not registered to vote. [3]

The PAC was targeting 1.4 million new residents that had voted Democrat in their states but had not registered in Texas. To create their Get Out The Vote (GOTV) lists, the PAC matched change of address forms with the voter registration data of the individual’s previous state to identify those that had voted Democrat prior to moving to Texas. [3]

The PAC, by its own admission is targeting newly arrived Democrats and encouraging them to vote for Democrats in upcoming races.

The Voter Data

Beto O’Rourke has built a robust voter data infrastructure since he ran for El Paso city council. During his run for the Senate against incumbent Ted Cruz, O’Rourke’s campaign “knocked on 4.1 million doors, made 20.8 million phone calls, and sent 37 million text messages to Texas voters,” [5] with each voter touch point generating additional datapoints to the campaign’s voter database.

A voter database is only as good as the current data it has, from the historical voting record to the accurate contact information and demographics. Voter data becomes stale overtime and actively feeding new data points makes the data more useful to candidates.

Covid-19 Vaccine Outreach To Segundo Barrio

Members of Beto O’Rourke’s PAC were reported to be canvassing in Segundo Barrio on Saturday, February 6, 2021.

The volunteers were going door to door in the 79901 zip code area registering residents for the Covid-19 vaccines. [4] News media reports have suggested El Pasoans are having a difficult time registering for the Covid-19 vaccine because of lack of access to technology.

On a Medium post on February 7, 2021, journalist Debbie Nathan criticized that PAC’s gathering of patient information for the vaccine shots. According to Nathan’s post, her husband had signed up for O’Rourke’s vaccine outreach. The documents received by Nathan’s husband were forms the volunteers would use to gather the details of the individual seeking the vaccine. Among the information that the volunteers were to gather included social security numbers and whether the individual was registered to vote.

Nathan goes on to write that the lists compiled by the PAC’s volunteers would be delivered to UMC and added to a waiting list.

Nathan criticized the door-to-door gathering of personal information for seemingly using the problems with access to the vaccine for political purposes.

Nathan followed up with a second Medium article last night reporting that the El Paso County Commissioners took up the matter of O’Rourke’s gathering of patient information on Saturday. According to Nathan, Beto’s name was not brought up by county judge Ricardo Samaniego when discussing the event. Samaniego, according to Nathan, “revealed that it was he who’d introduced” the O’Rourke plan to the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC).

Running for Governor?

Rumors have been swirling about a Beto O’Rourke run for governor of Texas in 2022. O’Rourke suggested on that he was thinking about running for governor on January 25, 2021. O’Rourke told a radio DJ on KLAQ and Powered by People PAC posted the announcement on its Twitter account on the same day.

Open Records Requests Filed

The El Paso Politics yesterday filed an open records request with the county commissioners, county judge and UMC for records and any contract between Beto O’Rourke, Powered by People and the government entities.

Today, we added a request for communications between the PAC and Cynthia Cano, Jacob Cintron (UMC CEO), and Brian Kennedy – all referenced by Samaniego. We will report on the results of our record search.

Footnotes:

  1. Patrick Svitek, “Beto O’Rourke unveils PAC with focus on boosting Texas Democrats in 2020,” The Texas Tribune, December 20, 2019.
  2. Federal Election Commission PAC reports for Powered by People.
  3. Gromer Jeffers, Jr., “Beto O’Rourke’s PAC shifts to next phase to help Democrats flip Texas House,” The Dallas Morning News, June 27, 2020.
  4. Molly Smith, “Beto O’Rourke, other volunteers to help register South El Pasoans for the COVID-19 vaccine,” El Paso Matters, February 5, 2021.
  5. Donald Judd, “O’Rourke won’t commit to unconditionally supporting Democrats in exchange with New Hampshire voter,” CNN, May 10, 2019.

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