Getting Them While They Are Young and Conservative

Posted March 16, 2012 at 6:17pm

Motivated by President Barack Obama’s success with younger voters, George P. Bush and a collection of Bush/Cheney alumni have launched Maverick PAC, a political action committee designed to spur activism among young Republican professionals.

Maverick PAC holds low-dollar fundraisers headlined by prominent GOP figures, allowing individuals who might want to get involved in Republican politics — but are unable to donate the standard high-dollar amounts — access for as little as $25 per event. The targeted demographic is professionals in their mid-20s to early 40s, with the PAC aiming to act as a “bridge” between college-level activism and the point at which they can afford to contribute more.

“Typically, if you’re not cutting a large check, you’re being overlooked by party leaders,” George P. Bush, 35, said in a telephone interview late last week.

Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, grandson of President George H.W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush. Currently living in
Fort Worth, Texas, and running a private equity firm he helped found, the younger Bush is viewed as the next generation of his family’s political dynasty and a potential candidate for political office in the future.

Maverick PAC takes its name from the moniker given to Bush/Cheney 2004 fundraisers who achieved “Maverick” status by raising $50,000 for the campaign and were generally under the age of 40. George P. Bush has joined with ex-Bush White House officials and fundraisers from the 2004 re-election campaign to seed and build Maverick PAC into an entity that can continue long after he and the other founders have moved on.

Their goal for the 2012 election cycle is to donate a combined $200,000 to Republican candidates running in targeted House, Senate and gubernatorial races. The PAC raised an initial $1.5 million to get off the ground and hire a professional staff. The organization believes its ability to attract big GOP names to events shows that it has momentum.

Last week, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) headlined a fundraiser for the launch of Maverick PAC’s Chicago chapter. Previous Maverick PAC guests have included Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s first defense secretary, Ari Fleischer, the president’s first press secretary, and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who is running for Senate. Rumsfeld headlined a Washington, D.C., event, and Fleischer headlined an event in New York.

As is often the case with Maverick PAC headliners, Mandel was in Houston for a standard high-dollar fundraiser but agreed to fit the group into his schedule. Co-Chairman Jay Zeidman, 28, said the organization does not take sides on issues nor hew to the moderate or conservative wings of the GOP. Its mission is simply to act as a conduit for young professionals who want to participate in the party but don’t know how.

Zeidman, a Bush administration veteran, said Maverick PAC’s target demographic is “typically politically interested but doesn’t know how to get involved.” Zeidman said events usually draw about 100 people.

He added that the response has been good enough that the group has expanded beyond its Texas chapters in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to California, Florida, New York, Illinois, Utah and D.C.

Asked about the potential effect of Maverick PAC, a D.C.-based GOP fundraising consultant lauded the organization’s strategy of engaging young professionals. This consultant said the group could fill a void within the party, particularly if it can engage new donors and provoke other forms of party involvement. That could pay large dividends as those donors’ incomes rise and the value of their business connections increases, the consultant said.

However, the consultant cautioned against expecting Maverick PAC to become a major player in the world of PAC donations, given its focus on affordable, low-dollar events. “If the goal is to get young people involved and [get] them contributing, it will work. If the goal is to raise a lot of money,” it probably won’t, this fundraiser said. “But it sounds like a good idea.”

Maverick PAC, a federal political action committee, is an outgrowth of Maverick PAC Texas, a state political action committee operating under Texas law, which was initially formed by Texas alumni of the Bush 2004 re-election campaign who wanted to remain active in GOP politics. George P. Bush and Zeidman spearheaded the formation of the federal PAC beginning last cycle.

In an effort to maximize the amount of money Maverick PAC can donate to Congressional and gubernatorial races, the still-operating Maverick PAC Texas covers virtually all overhead and administrative costs for the federal entity, including the fees for Executive Director Pasha Moore, a Texas-based fundraising consultant.

Indeed, the $1.5 million in seed money that Bush and Zeidman raised last year was funneled to the state PAC.

“The goal in this election cycle was to institutionalize Maverick PAC,” Bush said. Neither he nor Zeidman is getting paid for the work they do for the PAC, he said.