No Labels to Our Rescue but on Whose Dime?

Back in May, a Monmouth University Poll found that voters they polled had a better idea about who they wouldn’t support in the 2024 presidential election than who they would. Subsequent polling indicates a majority of voters don’t want a Trump versus Biden rematch.

Last month an NBC poll found that close to three quarters of the people polled believed the country was headed in the wrong direction. Yet, as the 2024 preliminaries get underway in New Hampshire and Iowa the dominant corporate news media narrative is that despite former President Trump’s mounting legal troubles, a rematch was as inevitable as the aging of the nation itself.

The country remains deeply divided coming out of the COVID-19 mass death event. Our inability to reach consensus on a path forward comes as we increasingly feel the real-world impacts of the earth’s existential environmental crisis of a warming planet manifesting in a mélange of toxic air, ever higher temperatures, and flash flooding.

Meanwhile, we can’t agree on who won the last presidential election, a controversy that dominates the national conversation, to the exclusion of so much else like our plummeting life expectancy.

 

NO LABELS TO THE RESCUE

Have no fear— behold a beacon of enlightenment from the swamp of the D.C. beltway doing business as No Labels, a tax-exempt group domiciled at 1130 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., is coming to deliver the nation from a Trump Biden rematch with a third-party candidate.

“We are a growing national movement of commonsense Americans pushing our leaders together to solve our country’s biggest problems,” according to the No Labels website. “We created the first-of-its-kind House Problem Solvers Caucus and an allied Senate group that were the force behind historic bipartisan achievements like the 2021 infrastructure bill. We want to strengthen the two-party system and we believe laying the groundwork for an independent Unity presidential ticket in 2024 is the best way to do it.”

The website’s language is highly suggestive of being a grassroots movement. “Join over 1 million of your fellow Americans who embrace the politics of problem solving and always put country over party,” the No Label website asserts. “This grassroots groundswell hasn’t materialized. No Labels answered ‘no’ to a question about whether it has ‘local chapters, branches, or affiliates’ on its 2021 tax return, the most recent one that’s publicly available,” reported Slate.

No Labels did not respond to an InsiderNJ email query.

On that tax return the highest paid No Labels employee, at $260,000 a year, was journalist Mark Halperin who was accused by multiple women back in 2017 of sexual harassment, misconduct or assault — “some of which he apologized for and others he denied,” reported Politico. He left the non-profit in May.

No Labels has been a long-time big booster of Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ 05), who co-chairs the No Labels linked bi-partisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House of Representatives. No Labels was founded back in 2010 by Nancy Jacobsen, a prolific fundraiser for President Clinton as well as other Democrats. She also founded Next Generation; a PAC focused on electing moderates that corporations adore to the U.S. Senate.

 

JERSEY CONTINGENT

Another one of her creations the bi-partisan Problem Solver Caucus is composed of dozens of House members including Rep. Tom Kean (R-NJ 7th), Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1st NJ), and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ 4th).

Several of the Democrats in the Problem Solver Caucus, led by Gottheimer, helped de-rail President Biden’s Build Back Better bill which included Universal Pre-K, continuing the Expanded Child Tax Credit, and rolling back some of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Gottheimer and his colleagues insisted Speaker Pelosi first advance the corporation favored infrastructure bill up.

Back in 2021, the Intercept reported that Gottheimer and his Problem Solver Democratic colleagues were “rewarded” for their gambit “with an avalanche of campaign contributions from some of the country’s wealthiest donors many of them with shared connections to the dark-money group No Labels, a review of federal campaign disclosure records finds.”

On Monday, No Labels was back in the headlines when Sen. Joe Manchin (WV-D) and former Gov. John Huntsman (Utah-R) participated in a forum held by the group, which proclaimed it was laying “the groundwork for an independent Unity presidential ticket 2024” to “strengthen the two-party system.”

In a Q and A on the website, No Labels explains that it’s not running a presidential campaign per se but a “2024 insurance project’ making sure that ballot access is secured for such an effort. The website doesn’t specify who its donors are, and their tax filings don’t offer those details either.

“We never share the names of our donors because we live in an era where agitators and partisan operatives try to destroy and intimidate organizations, they don’t like by attacking their individual supporters,” the No Labels website explains. “No Labels’ 2024 insurance project is an effort to secure ballot access nationwide and is not and never will be a presidential campaign. Since we announced our project, we’ve been threatened online with acts of violence, including death threats. We’re not going to subject the thousands of patriotic and principled people who support us to that kind of treatment.”

 

DIALING FOR DOLLARS

In 2018, under a headline “How No Labels Went from Preaching Unity to the Dark Arts”, the Daily Beast reported it had obtained internal documents documenting the group was courting “individuals who’ve bankrolled massive parts of the Republican Party’s infrastructure, including David Koch, former AIG head Hank Greenberg, and billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer; as well as top supporters of President Donald Trump, including PayPal founder Peter Thiel, businessman Foster Friess, and Home Depot founder Ken Langone.”

The news outlet continued.  “No Labels also courted liberal-minded moneymen, including Michael Vachon, a top political adviser to George Soros (one of the biggest funders of Democratic and progressive causes) and Reid Hoffman, an investor and entrepreneur who has called Trump ‘worse than useless.’ The group also targeted Wendi Murdoch (ex-wife of Rupert and rumored Ivanka Trump pal), uber-agent Ari Emanuel, and Dallas Mavericks owner and oft-rumored presidential aspirant Mark Cuban. Another possible 2020 candidate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was also among dozens of high net-worth individuals approached about donating to No Labels’ super PACs.”

According to the Daily Beast, most of the solicitations didn’t pan out but they did still net millions.  “No Labels-affiliated super PACs—No Labels Action, Forward Not Back, United Together, Govern or Go Home, Citizens for a Strong America, and United for Progress—had collectively raised more than $11 million from 53 individual donors. The average contribution to the groups was about $124,000, illustrating their reliance on high-dollar donors rather than grassroots financial support.”

Other names closely associated with the No Labels brand include former Senator Joe Lieberman, who was one of the group’s founders and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who was elected as Democrat from Arizona but subsequently switched her affiliation to independent.

Jacobsen, the group’s founder, is married to Mark Penn, a former CEO of Burson-Marstellar, a controversial global public relations firm for multinationals and foreign governments. Penn was President Clinton’s pollster and top advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

These days Penn is the president and managing partner of the Stagwell Group, a private equity firm focusing on the market services field. “Internationally, he helped elect more than 25 leaders in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, including Tony Blair and Menachem Begin,” according to his bio.

According to a No Labels FQA, Penn has never had a role in the organization that his wife founded.

“I think setting up the No Labels organization from scratch – that’s my biggest accomplishment,” Jacobsen told the Pascack Hills Trailblazer, in a 2022 interview. “I think having an idea which was to bring the Republicans and the Democrats together. From your area, [Congressman] Josh Gottheimer is one of our leaders of the Problem Solvers, which is great. So, I created the Problem Solvers Caucus. I named it, I created the whole thing, and we put Congressman Gottheimer in there, in fact, but I created the Problem Solvers. We raised so much money for all these members, and I think that’s my biggest accomplishment – creating No Labels and The Problem Solvers Caucus.”

In 2018 Jacobson told Politico that there was “a new realignment brewing between centrist democrats and centrist republicans. In less than 10 years this new coalition will be the dominant political force in the country.”

In an interview with NBC this week Jacobsen’s praised President Biden as a “good man” who had facilitated “a lot of tremendous legislation but went on to say, “the point is it’s about the voters…and the voters of this country right now are not saying they want his as a choice—right now.”

 

A TEXT TOO FAR?

Politico reported back in May, that No Labels had started to attack one of its charter members, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill 10th) after the New York Times quoted him as saying he couldn’t “think of nothing worse than another Trump presidency and no better way of helping him than running a third-party candidate.”

No Labels texted Schneider’s constituents that it was “alarmed to learn” Schneider had attacked “the notion that you should have more choices in the 2024 presidential election” adding he was just “out of step” with voters, Politico reported.

“The Problem Solvers Caucus is currently co-chaired by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.),” reported Politico.  “A spokesperson for Fitzpatrick did not respond to a request for comment, but Gottheimer said in a statement that he opposed No Labels’ 2024 efforts.”

“Like Brad, this is not an effort I’m personally involved with or supportive of,” Gottheimer told Politico. “I also believe constructive conversations are the best way to solve problems and resolve disagreements — not personal attacks.”

No Labels has said it expects to raise $70 million to actualize its 2024 plans. According to the last publicly available tax document it had an $11 million budget as of it 2021 IRS filings.

While Lieberman is listed as No Label’s founding chairman, the group has other prominent national political figures as co-chairs including former Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Md)., Dr. Ben F. Chavis, the renowned civil rights leader, and former Governor Patrick McCrory (R-NC).

 

HEAVY HITTERS BEHIND NO LABELS

The group’s “legal board” of directors includes Jerry Howe, an attorney and business executive in the aerospace, defense, intelligence, and government services sectors. He serves as the executive vice president and general counsel of Leidos Holdings, Inc. in the defense, intelligence, civil, and health markets space — with over 44,000 employees and approximately $14 billion in annual revenue. In the 2021 tax return he’s listed as No Labels Treasurer.

Andrew H. Tisch, co-chair of the Board and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Loews Corporation, is another long time No Label’s trustee.  He is also serves on the Board of Directors of CNA Financial Corporation and chairs the New York City Police Foundation as well as the executive committee of the New York Historical Society. He also serves as a trustee of the Brookings Institution and is vice-Chairman of the United States Global Leadership Coalition.

Andy Bursky, is another long time No Labels booster and trustee for the non-profit. As chairman and managing director of Atlas Holdings LLC, he leads an industrial holding company that operates 17 global businesses, employing more than 23,000 associates at over 120 facilities worldwide.

Of course, no board of any consequence is complete without a former high-ranking member of the military. No Labels board member Retired Admiral Dennis Blair served as President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence. Before that, the U.S. Naval Academy graduate was Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Back in 2006, the Washington Post reported Blair, who led a “Pentagon-funded research organization that analyzes large weapons systems” had “to resign from the board of a major defense contractor after senators raised questions about a potential conflict of interest.”

“Retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair, president of the Institute for Defense Analyses, said in letters to Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) that he told EDO Corp. he would resign from its board,” the newspaper reported. “EDO is a subcontractor for the Air Force’s multibillion-dollar F-22 Raptor program, which the institute has evaluated for the Pentagon.”

The newspaper continued. “One of the studies, completed in February, supported the Air Force’s desire to shift from annual purchases of the F-22 to a three-year contract that begins in 2008 and will cost more than $10 billion. The report’s conclusions have been challenged by the Government Accountability Office.”

 

BLACK, MANAFORT & STONE

Another No Labels booster who adds some real beltway insider gravitas to the board is Charles R. Black, who along with Paul Manafort and Roger Stone operated a lobbying firm that domestically represented clients like Rupert Murdock and the tobacco industry while internationally catering to regimes with horrendous human rights issues.

Black’s lobbying firm figured prominently in the Center for Public Integrity’s report “The Torturer’s Lobby-How Human Rights Abusing Nations are Represented in Washington.”

“On a different continent, both Kenya and Nigeria have widely criticized human rights records. Last year, Kenya received $38 million in U.S. foreign aid, and spent over $1.4 million on Washington lobbyists to get it,” according to the Center for Public Integrity’s report. “Nigeria received $8.3 million and expended in excess of $2.5 million. Whom did both countries call upon to do their bidding before the U.S. government? The lobbying firm of Black. Manafort, Stone and Kelly Public Affairs Co., which received $660,000 from Kenya in 1992-1993 and $1 million from Nigeria in 1991.”

The report continued. “Former Reagan political operative Paul Manafort oversees foreign accounts; his partner, Charles R. Black, was a senior political strategist in the 1992 Bush-Quayle campaign.  Their firm’s fees to represent Nigeria. Kenya, the Philippines, and Angola’s UNITA rebel group in 1991 totaled more than $3 million. All four receive U.S. aid and abuse human rights. A spokeswoman for Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly told the Center that the firm does not ‘attempt to explain away’ concerns about human rights. Instead, she said, ‘we try to open a dialogue.’”

The Center for Public Integrity argued it would undermine “public confidence in our political system….to allow former officials to become hired guns for foreign governments and receive exorbitant fees from their high-paying clients. Serious questions are raised when, as shown by this study, former officials appear to be using their political connections to exploit the appropriations process at the expense of the U.S. taxpayers.”

In 1991, Burson-Marstellar, then the world’s second largest advertising firm bought Black, Manafort & Stone despite what the New York Times described as a “taint” over the lobbying firm’s reputation.

“Several public relations executives and industry analysts expressed surprise that Burson-Marsteller, and especially its parent company, Young & Rubicam, would associate with Black, Manafort, a 50-person firm that has brushed against controversy since its founding in 1980,” the Times reported.

The newspaper continued. “Last year, Paul J. Manafort, a partner in the firm and a top strategist in President Bush’s 1988 election campaign, conceded that his activities in obtaining grants from the Housing and Urban Development Department for clients could be called ‘influence peddling.’ The resulting furor forced another partner, Roger J. Stone, to resign as an adviser to James A. Courter, the Republican candidate for Governor of New Jersey.”

Thomas D. Bell Jr., a vice chairman of Burson-Marsteller, told the newspaper his firm “thoroughly reviewed the H.U.D. issue and all the allegations surrounding it and came to the conclusion that there was nothing there.”

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