CREDO Mobile, a San Francisco-based company that sells cell phones
and phone plans, has started a super PAC aimed at defeating Tea Party
congress members in the 2012 election cycle. One of their primary
targets? Illinois’ 8th district representative Joe Walsh.
”This is a guy who self-identifies as a ‘crazy Tea Party freshman’ [congressman],” Becky Bond, CREDO’s Political Director and the head of CREDO SuperPAC, said of Walsh. “This guy is concerned that government spending is gonna put too much of a burden on our children in the future, and yet [he] doesn’t even pay his own child support. This guy shouldn’t be in Congress.”
CREDO has long been a phone company
with a mission. Since its founding in 1985, the enterprise formerly
known as Working Assets has been committed to a business model that
directs its revenues to non-profit, non-partisan organizations, such as
Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and the ACLU.
This year, however, marks the first time CREDO has explicitly entered into the arena of partisan federal politics, with a campaign their mission statement describes as “unabashedly progressive.”
Bond attributed the decision to start a super PAC to frustration with Congress’ most conservative elements, which CREDO’s leadership sees as fundamentally threatening the types of causes the company has traditionally championed.
“We’ve seen all the issues that we care about... just getting decimated by extremist Republicans in the House,” said Bond. “We’ve never seen a Congress like this. These are people that are so extreme that they don’t believe in science, they have a problem with women, they have policies that are racist.”
CREDO SuperPAC’s stated aim is to “take down the Tea Party Ten” -- a reference to ten current members of Congress that the company has identified as especially conservative and especially vulnerable this November. So far, CREDO has revealed the names of six of their ten targets: Representatives Frank Guinta (NH), Sean Duffy (WI), Steve King (IA), Chip Cravaack (MN), Allen West (FL), and Walsh. Toward that end, the organization has already raised several hundred thousand dollars of their ambitious $3 million goal.
Bond sees this fundraising as a sort of necessary evil. “We believe there should be no corporate money in politics,” she said. In fact, outside of Stephen Colbert’s satirical Americans For a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, CREDO SuperPAC may be the only super PAC that actually opposes the very existence of super PACs.
“When Citizens United came down, we opposed it,” said Bond, in reference to the 2010 Supreme Court decision that removed limits on corporate spending for political purposes, thereby clearing the way for the creation of super PACS.
But while CREDO’s membership will continue to “be leaders in the long-term fight” to overturn Citizens United, Bond says they ultimately decided they could not simply stand on the political sidelines. “If we could get rid of every super PAC tomorrow, we would do it. But until that day, we can’t unilaterally disarm and still block the worst abuses of the Tea Party in Congress.”
Bond’s use of military terminology is no accident. The leadership of CREDO SuperPAC sees its activity as part of a larger battle, and its rhetoric is decidedly pugilistic. The company’s political wing describes itself as fighting back against “radical attacks on women, science, and equality” by conservative congress members, according to its online mission statement; the ultimate goal is to “deal a knockout blow to Tea Party extremism.”
“These guys that we’re targeting,” said Bond, “they can all be beat.”
CREDO’s aggressive stance is particularly evident in the company’s decision to campaign against candidates it dislikes and not for candidates it favors. Bond says the super PAC will remain removed from all party primary contests -- such as the hotly contested race between Illinois Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Raja Krishnamoorthi, who are competing for the opportunity to run against Republican Joe Walsh in November’s general election. “We’re not supporting any Democratic candidates,” Bond said. “That’s not what we’re doing. We’re working for defeat.”
“It’s not about whether you agree or disagree with every Democratic candidate on the issues,” she clarified, “it’s about getting Joe Walsh out of office.”
To accomplish that goal, CREDO SuperPAC will soon be opening a field office in Illinois, as well as offices in the nine other states where it will be contesting candidates. Each office will be staffed with local organizers, who will recruit local volunteers as part of a grassroots campaign effort. The offices will organize protests at town hall meetings and send people out to walk their neighborhoods, to go door-to-door to canvass voters.
Bond said the super PAC’s role was to provide activists on the ground with the resources they needed to effect change. “There are thousands of people who are appalled that they’re represented by Joe Walsh in Congress,” she said.
“The passion and the people are there. We see it as our job to go in and give [them] help.”