Joe Lieberman, No Labels
Former Senator Joe Lieberman and National Co-chair of No Labels speaking at an event with the Problem Solvers Conference in Washington, DC. Photo credit: No Labels / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Like a drop of poison in the well, the No Labels scheme could easily alter the outcome in 2024 if it fools even a tiny percentage of voters.

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The shadowy, self-proclaimed “bipartisan” political organization No Labels is not what it seems.

Posing as a healing tonic for a dangerously divided nation, its real mission is something else entirely: to insidiously divide Democrats in the leadup to the 2024 election. 

Founded in 2010 by former Democratic Party operative Nancy Jacobson, No Labels bills itself as a “national movement of common sense Americans” committed to bipartisanship and fighting political polarization through “creating a powerful force capable of countering the influence of the extremes on both sides.” 

Integral to achieving these goals is the tactic of putting a viable third-party candidate on every state’s 2024 presidential ballot. 

On paper, this seems innocent enough but, behind the scenes, recent reports have shown their motives are in fact much darker.

It has been suspected for some time that No Labels’ support of Republican politicians, right-leaning Democrats, and self-described centrists has been a strategy to block and disrupt progressive legislation and meaningful change. 

No Labels has also faced past criticism for their flirtation with right-wing megadonors and their hefty financial backing from corporations and billionaires. We now know they have gone beyond the flirtation stage.

‘Follow the Money?’ How?

Recent reports reveal that much of the funding of No Labels comes from corporate interests and GOP megadonors — such as Harlan Crow, Stephen Schwarzman, and Nelson Peltz

In fact it is difficult to ascertain the scope of No Labels’ funding in general, given that they are set up as a tax-exempt nonprofit, and not required to publicly disclose their donors, despite the fact that they engage in political activity. 

What can be discerned about its funding sources has led observers to charge that No Labels is more obedient to the partisan interests of its donors than to its advertised “bipartisan” ideals.

As reported by Politico, No Labels has recently refused to disclose its donors, which has raised wide concerns about No Labels’ legitimacy and compliance with campaign finance laws.

“No Labels is essentially running a presidential campaign without the requirements that apply to formal political parties; namely disclosures… Experts in campaign finance law say that the organization is walking right up to the line of what is permissible,” Politico notes. 

What can be discerned about its funding sources has led observers to charge that No Labels is more obedient to the markedly partisan interests of its donors than to its advertised “bipartisan” ideals.

There is some solid evidence for this. For example, according to leaked No Labels emails, after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) controversially blocked bills, such as provisions of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better package, that included raising taxes on billionaires, Sinema suddenly became a rising No Labels star. 

Kyrsten Sinema No Labels

Kyrsten Sinema mixes with guests at a No Labels event with the Problem Solvers Conference in Washington, DC in 2017. Photo credit: No Labels / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

No Labels widely praised Sinema, and sent an email to their billionaire financial backers, urging them to thank and donate to Sinema as a new ally. This infusion of seven-figure financial support by corporate megadonors has arguably led Sinema to block portions of further legislation that would tax or otherwise inconvenience billionaires and corporate interests, such as the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

Right Face, Forward March

No Labels, according to a recent report by Politico, is likely to back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s presidential bid should he win the GOP nomination, abandoning the third-party platform that is their ostensible raison d’etre. So much for principled centrism. 

DeSantis, with less political and legal baggage than Trump, has shown himself to be a booster of the corporate agenda many of No Labels’ big donors share. According to Rick Wilson, founder of the political watchdog group The Lincoln Project, many of the same GOP donors financially backing No Labels have also donated heavily to DeSantis. 

The Florida governor, of course, is not exactly a centrist, “commonsense” candidate. He has in fact been labeled as a right-wing extremist for his draconian anti-LGBTQIA+ and anti-abortion legislation, as well as for his unwillingness to denounce open neo-Nazis supporting him in Florida. Currently running to the right of Donald Trump for the GOP nomination, DeSantis is obviously not in the No Labels mold — or at least he shouldn’t be, if No Labels actually were what it holds itself out to be.

Nor is this the only instance of No Labels playing footsie with the far right. According to a recent Mother Jones report, No Labels has been contracting an online fundraising platform called Anedot, which has extensive ties to the far right, to handle their donations.

And the nexus between donor input and policy output is hard to miss.

“You would think that No Labels would be all-in on something that so united the country [Build Back Better]… except that it would have been paid for by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans,” said Andrew Rivera, a researcher for the pro-labor watchdog group More Perfect Union. “At the end of the day, these billionaires and large corporations are deeply invested in maintaining the status quo and opposing Democrats’ agenda for working people.” 

No Labels’ courting of billionaire GOP and corporate interest donors, stonewalling widely popular legislation specifically aimed at taxing the wealthy, and prospective support of DeSantis are simply impossible to reconcile with their advertised motives. The manifest lack of commitment to their own stated ideals of “bipartisanship” comes off as disingenuous at best and sinister at worst. 

Maine Masquerade?

The reality about who supports No Labels, whom No Labels supports, and in turn what legislation they advocate for, raises fundamental questions about whether anything No Labels does is what it seems. Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, further questions concerning the integrity of No Labels have been raised when it comes to how they have tried to build their party base, using Maine as their testing ground.   

Election officials in Maine issued No Labels a cease and desist letter after alleging the party misled thousands of voters into believing they were merely signing a petition, when in fact they were switching their party registration to No Labels. It’s an old trick: A colleague of mine once sent a donation to the Blinded Veterans, only to find out he had been registered as a member of the NRA. Such methods do not inspire trust in either an organization’s modus operandi or its motives.

Gearing Up to Take Down Biden?

Given their dubious motives and practices, it’s reasonable to question No Labels’ pursuit of third-party politics in the run up to 2024. As demonstrated by Ralph Nader in 2000 and the Green Party’s Jill Stein in 2016, albeit with more honest motivations, third-party candidates can siphon off votes disproportionately from mainstream presidential candidates, a concerning prospect for democracy in 2024 with the possibility of a Trump (or DeSantis) presidency.

Democrats have been worried that the same could happen as a result of No Labels’ “unity ticket.” Given the supposedly centrist party’s backing by GOP megadonors protecting their entrenched interests with their wallets, and its flirtation with the far right DeSantis, this has the look of a conscious strategy by No Labels. 

“If they have to spend the [money] to destroy Biden, they will … and [No Labels] is designed to be the vehicle for an ocean of dark GOP money dressed up as moderate do-gooderism,” said Wilson in a series of tweets. 

Democrats have every reason to worry about a third-party, “centrist” candidate bleeding a decisive share of votes from Biden. While a high proportion of Trump voters are very locked into their support for Trump, Biden voters have been shown to be much softer in their support, with many 2020 Biden voters voting less out of support for Biden and more as an anti-Trump position. Indeed, Biden has a huge margin over Trump among those voters who say they dislike both candidates, a crucial segment of the electorate to whom a third-party alternative would have obvious appeal.

In an election forecast as a replay of 2020’s Electoral College squeaker — in which a shift of 44,000 votes over three states would have secured Trump’s reelection — even if 95-plus percent of Democratic and independent voters catch on to what No Labels is up to, the remaining sliver of voters who don’t could easily be enough to alter the outcome in 2024.

“Such a candidacy could hand the presidency to the Republican candidate in 2024 because [possible No Labels candidates Sen. Joe] Manchin (D-WV) and Sinema both have had a longtime affiliation with the Democratic Party. Few Republicans would vote for either, but both could pull enough Democratic and independent votes to swing the election,” observed political commentator Thom Hartmann. 

“Getting Sinema and Manchin on the ballot is likely No Labels’ donors’ best hope of enacting their agenda … it would guarantee that their tax breaks continue,” elaborated Rivera. By putting Trump or some other Republican in the White House. 

In an election forecast as a replay of 2020’s Electoral College squeaker — in which a shift of 44,000 votes over three states would have secured Trump’s reelection — even if 95-plus percent of Democratic and independent voters catch on to what No Labels is up to, the remaining sliver of voters who don’t could easily be enough to alter the outcome in 2024.

Many questions remain regarding the funding, motivations, and future of No Labels — not to mention the other potential elephant in the room, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s candidacy — and it remains to be seen how No Labels’ political schemes play out.  

With all the justifiable anxiety about the overt and violent extremism exemplified by the likes of neo-Nazis or the Proud Boys, No Labels may well pose the greater threat to democracy. It is a threat that is quiet, still largely unrecognized by a majority of the public, and one that hides under an appealing veneer of centrist respectability. 

Given the deep pockets behind No Labels, the threat it poses likely won’t go away soon. It will behoove us all to keep looking under the hood.


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