Elections are notoriously tough for independent political candidates. And it appears just as difficult out there for super PACs touting politicians not affiliated with either major political party.
The super PAC icPurple Inc. — established in April 2012 to support “independent candidates to end gridlock and get our government back in the business of solving problems” — has terminated its operations, according to a recent campaign finance filing with the Federal Election Commission.
During the first seven months of 2013, La Jolla, Calif.-based icPurple raised less than $800, federal records show.
Such tepid fundraising came after the group raised more than $500,000 during 2012, ranking it among the nation’s most well-funded super PACs not directly aligned with either Republicans or Democrats.
The vast majority of the money icPurple raised — $325,000 — came from its founder, Ted Waitt, a co-founder of computer company Gateway, Inc. Another $55,000 came in the form of in-kind contributions from Waitt’s California-based private equity firm, Avalon Capital Group, Inc.
Waitt’s super PAC had aimed to buttress “viable” independent candidates in all 50 states at the federal, state and local level.
Its website called on dissatisfied voters to sign a “declaration of independents,” which included a pledge to “do everything in my power to elect capable-leaders who put their commitment to the People above party loyalty, and who will work across party lines to create a brighter future for all Americans.”
Waitt, who could not be reached for comment, last year told Mother Jones that “politics in this country is coin-operated,” and he said in an opinion column that “the future is bright for the independent movement.”
Tom Grueskin, treasurer of icPurple, declined to comment to the Center for Public Integrity.
California, last year, instituted a new “jungle primary” system last year that pitted all candidates — regardless of party affiliation — together in primary contests. The top two vote-getters in each race then faced off again in November.
Taking advantage of the new system, icPurple spent more than $100,000 on advertisements promoting two independents who sought seats in the U.S. House of Representatives — Linda Parks and Chad Condit. Neither earned enough votes to advance to the general election.
icPurple also backed unsuccessful independent San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher; independent Chad Walsh, who failed in his California state assembly bid; and independent Angus King of Maine, who won his U.S. Senate race.
Even as icPurple closes up shop, Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson predicts that others could take its place.
“I think we will see more of these independent super PACs,” Levinson said — particularly ones funded by “Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires” who, like Waitt, frequently identify as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
With or without super PACs, though, independent candidates typically face long odds in U.S. elections.
“In most places, independent candidacies are doomed from the start,” said Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “That could change as the Republican Party moves so far to the edge that it creates an opening for mainstreamers, but I would not hold my breath.”