The self-styled centrist group No Labels has no shortage of haters fretting that its bold pledge to spend $70 million on a third-party presidential bid in 2024 will throw the election to former president Donald Trump if, in fact, he is the Republican nominee. Democrats are damning the group in the New York Times. Behind the scenes, President Joe Biden and company are begging them to sit on the sidelines.
But how much money has the group actually raised to fund its effort to get on the ballot? It’s hard to say. No Labels won't say how large its staff is, so, in the face of several resignations last year -- a POLITICO report put the number at at least 11 out of a staff of 20, while its website lists just three staff members -- it is difficult to know whether the group has the manpower to shake up the two-party system.
Several news reports have indicated the group is in the midst of a $70 million fundraising haul. That figure has a single source, a September 2022 New York Times column by David Brooks, who wrote then that the "No Labels operation is a $70 million effort, of which $46 million has already been raised or pledged." Brooks has since reneged on his enthusiasm for a third-party bid, writing earlier this month that "this is not the right election to carry out their strategy." He nonetheless repeated that No Labels is a "$70 million effort."
It's possible that No Labels has seen a fundraising surge in the last two years, but publicly available evidence suggests otherwise. The group controlled just $10 million at the end of 2021, according to tax documents. Its 2022 IRS filings have not yet been released, and a spokesman for the group did not respond to a request for comment about its fundraising since that time. Nor did a spokesman indicate how much of that $46 million was raised, how much was pledged, and whether there were any contingencies attached to the pledges. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment about the source of the $70 million figure.
No Labels has recently made headlines for its efforts to gain ballot access in several states. The tip of the spear in that project is the political action committee Insurance Policy for America, Inc. (IFPA).
No Labels launched IFPA in 2021 with a $2.4 million donation. IFPA nonetheless told the Internal Revenue Service that it had no related entities, though it listed No Labels’ Washington, D.C., headquarters on Connecticut Ave. as its address. The group changed its name to No Labels Ballot Access, Inc. in July of 2022, but continued to submit IRS filings under the IFPA name. At the end of 2022, it had raised just $190,800 from 36 donors. No Labels Ballot Access Inc. did not respond to a request for comment.
The group’s strategy has been as much of a muddle as its finances, and even its chief strategist, Ryan Clancy, has said he has little clue how an independent bid would impact the presidential race. "To sit where we are and say we know exactly how an independent ticket would impact a race, it’s cherry-picking," he told NBC News last month.
Since then, the group has dialed back its ambitions. No Labels co-chair Dr. Ben Chavis told the network on Thursday that the group would shut down its efforts if polls showed Biden "way, way out ahead" of Trump. "No Labels is not and will not be a spoiler in favor of Donald Trump in 2024," Chavis said.
That statement came on the heels of another from Clancy, who told Politico days earlier that if Florida governor Ron DeSantis or former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley leads the Republican ticket, No Labels might also pack things up: "Polling and modeling," Clancy said, could lead them to conclude a third presidential option is no longer necessary.
Even so, the group remains remarkably cagey about its plans. Its website is an exercise in empty prose: No Labels is "preparing for the possibility of nominating a candidate"; it will proceed with that project only if "proper environmental conditions" are met; it will release a policy agenda "in the summer of 2023," chock-full of "commonsense solutions."
No Labels has gained access to the ballot in just four states as of April, although that number may dwindle to just three. The Arizona Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in March to kick No Labels off the 2024 ballot in the state.
A senior White House official told the Free Beacon that the Biden campaign has no plans to comment on No Labels' plans.
In the meantime, the group has a six-point outline that summarizes "what we believe." Those principles include "America isn’t perfect, but we love this country and would not want to live any place else" and "We support, and are grateful for, the U.S. military."