MIAMI – Before this year, attorney Elizabeth Beck may not have seemed like the kind of person to start a political action committee.
“I’ve never really been a political person before getting involved. I was a very passive voter,” Beck told the Florida Record. “I really wanted to make the right decision in casting my votes this year. … I became alarmed at what was going on in the political arena.”
While part of her action was prompted by who she doesn’t want to see elected president, she said volunteering with Bernie Sanders’ campaign is really what moved her.
“I was like, ‘His platform is speaking to me.’ I really thought politicians never said these things,” she said.
After phone-banking for the campaign and donating about $2,000 to Sanders, she and her husband, Jared, who is also an attorney, started discussing ways they can reach more people who maybe, like she was, feel apathetic during elections.
Their brainstorm landed in an unpredicted place: They decided to start a super-PAC – an independent political action committee that raises unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals but can’t contribute or coordinate with a specific political party or campaign.
They call it JAM PAC, and Beck explained that it was surprisingly easy to start, thanks to loose regulations that have made it possible for people and corporations to bypass campaign contribution limits ($2,700) to spend millions of dollars on elections.
The name is inspired by “culture jamming,” which refers to tactics used by social movements to disrupt or subvert mainstream culture and institutions. The founders have referred to the PAC as “a hack for an ailing political system” and said it will be a progressive and independent grassroots super-PAC that won’t serve the interests of corporate America and the wealthy.
Through JAM PAC, the Becks work with directors and producers, including filmmakers Dan DeVivo and Reed Lindsay, to create short videos. Right now, they’re clearly focused on promoting Sanders by explaining his policies and demonstrating his appeal. A handful of videos on their website, www.jampac.us, target Latino populations, showing Spanish-speaking individuals explaining why they like the Democratic rival of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“We realized there really wasn’t any Spanish-speaking videos that talked about (Sanders),” Beck said. We thought there was a huge vacuum there. … We wanted to counteract that complete blackout by putting out some messages that talk about his platform and what he stands for. It’s not only helpful and impacts all of us but issues that might be of particular interest in the Latino community.”
One video covers tuition, minimum wage, immigration and health care. JAM PAC has said it will explore progressive policy issues covering the economy, unemployment, federal debt, immigration, income gap, corporate corruption, racism/diversity, violent crime and foreign trade.
But the super-PAC will go beyond Sanders. In an on-going project called House on Fire, North Carolina college student Niko House will investigate corruption in the Democratic Party. They’re raising money specifically for the project through IndieGoGo at www.generosity.com/fundraising/house-on-fire-investigative-documentary-series.
“As a super-PAC, we’re independent of any campaign. We actually are – I take that very seriously,” Beck said. “We may endorse Bernie at this moment but we’re not a Democratic super-PAC and we’re not necessarily a pro-Bernie super-PAC for the rest of our existence. We’re a progressive super-PAC. We endorse progressive values and we take on projects that mesh with it.”
She hopes to build momentum with the help of small-dollar donors. So far, she and her husband have donated most of what’s gone into the PAC but she plans to focus on building a “fundraising machine.” Timing made it necessary to focus first on content, she said.
It’s been worth it to direct their savings toward these efforts, she said.
“We’re doing all this to make this country a kinder, better place for the vast majority of people, and if that’s the case, our children will have a better life any way,” Beck said. “We’re saving up our money for our children, so let’s spend some of it for them.”