A PAC run by progressive media personality Krystal Ball has paid more money for her salary than it has given in support of Democratic congressional candidates.
The stated mission of the Ball-run People’s House Project is to support “working- and middle-class Democratic House candidates in the Midwest and Appalachian states.” But Federal Election Commission records show that of the nearly $120,000 the group raised last year, $69,500 was paid out to Ball. Of $115,000 in total expenditures, only $3,250 — less than 3 percent of all money raised — was donated to Democratic House candidates.
Of the amount donated, $2,250 went to the campaign of Richard Ojeda, a candidate for West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District. Another $1,000 was given to Karen Mallard, who is running in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. People’s House Project ended the year with just over $34,000 in cash on hand, as well as $10,000 in debts owed.
The $69,500 that Ball received as pay stands as 60 percent of the total expenditures by the group. Overall, 75 percent of the $115,000 handed out went to payroll expenses.
Political action committees have come under fire for raising money and spending little of it directly on candidates or campaigns before. The Daily Beast reported last week that of the nearly half of a million dollars brought in by the Democratic Coalition, a new progressive organization, over half went to its employees or consulting firms, including more than $130,000 that went to a consulting group run by Scott Dworkin, the PAC’s senior adviser.
According to Ball, her group’s intent is to serve as a third party for candidates to help them create higher name-identification in their races and to connect them with potential donors.
“We try to be as helpful as we possibly can to our campaigns within the limits of the law,” Ball said. “This is my full-time job. I put everything I have into it. And I couldn’t be more proud of the impact we’ve had on a small amount of money.”
She also said the income taken out of the PAC was “modest” and noted that the group is filed as a Carey Committee or Hybrid PAC, limited to contributing no more than $5,000 to any candidate per cycle.
Overall, the group’s website lists six individuals on their “Endorsed Candidates” page, including Randy Bryce, who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Other candidates hail from North Carolina, Minnesota and Tennessee.
Two candidates the group is supporting spoke glowingly about its work, especially helping them to become better known on the political scene.
“They have done some wonderful things for me,” said Ojeda, pointing specifically to the group’s ability to connect his campaign with media contacts. “They have been a godsend.”
Mallard also said the group has been “so helpful” since they first came in contact in late October, particularly on the donor front.
However, both Ojeda and Mallard have struggled with fundraising since announcing their campaigns. Ojeda, who is running for the seat being relinquished by Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W. Va., has raised only $35,000, while Mallard only pulling in $29,000. Four of the six candidates are also running in districts that are considered “Solid Republican” by the Cook Political Report.
The People’s House Project launched last April and argued that the Democratic Party “needs to recruit and nurture a different sort of candidate,” particularly from states in middle America.
“The candidates we support upend the conventional wisdom that only those well-connected in donor circles are worthy of high office,” the group says on their “What We Stand For” page. “Our candidates are, instead, connected to and representative of their districts, have first-person experience with the problems faced by middle-income and working-class families, and are from walks of life not well represented in Congress.”
“We’re working to win back the trust of voters who feel abandoned by the party’s attachment to Wall Street and who are deeply concerned about their family’s economic future,” the page also says. “That’s why the People’s House Project will incubate and accelerate candidates who offer an alternative vision based on working class solidarity and respect for the dignity of every American.”
As for Ball, a former host of MSNBC’s “The Cycle,” she is the president of the group and was recently named a host of a new morning show by The Hill that is set for launch later in the year. Previously, she ran for Congress in 2010, losing to Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., by a 29-point margin.