314 Action is a political action committee recruiting professional scientists to run for public office. As of early 2018, the group has exclusively supported Democratic candidates.
314 Action has compared itself to EMILY’s List, the recruiting and training organization for liberal female candidates. Through its initiative STEM the Divide, it offers training for first-time candidates and connects these candidates with experienced Democratic operatives. The staff of 314 Action have extensive experience in Democratic politics working for a number of prominent current and former Democratic officials.
314 Action’s President, Shaughnessy Naughton has admitted that the project is at least partially motivated by animosity towards President Trump, pointing to Administration members’ positions on climate change and vaccines as evidence for the need to run more Democratic scientists for higher office.
314 Action works on connecting candidates with training, donors and operatives and experts, including controversial climate scientist Michael Mann and prominent Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi. Trippi is well known for his work for a number of major Democratic campaigns, perhaps most prominently as campaign manager for left-wing 2004 Presidential candidate Howard Dean.
When pressed on whether 314 Action’s position of only supporting Democratic candidates will affect the organization’s effectiveness, Naughton responded “[w]hen we’re talking about climate change, there’s a clear distinction between the two parties.” Put another way, she has noted “[w]e felt we had to pick a team.”
So far, that “team” has included the following House candidates: Kathryn Allen (D-Utah), Ami Bera (D-California), Tony Cardenas (D-California), Judy Chu (D-California), TJ Cox (D-California), Suzan DelBene (D-Washington), Eric Ding (D-Pennsylvania), Brian Forde (D-California), Bill Foster (D-Illinois), Suneel Gupta (D-Michigan), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania), Roger Dean Huffstetler (D-Virginia), Hans Keirstead (D-California), Grant Kier (D-Montana), Joseph Kopser (D-Texas), Ellen Lipton (D-Michigan), Elanie Luria (D-Virginia), Kelly Mazeski (D-Illinois), Jerry McNerney (D-California), Aruna Miller (D-Maryland), Seth Moulton (D-Massachusetts), Jess Phoenix (D-California), Raul Ruiz (D-California), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Hiral Tipirneni (D-Arizona), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Mai-Khanh Tran (D-California), Lauren Underwood (D-Illinois), Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), and Jason Westin (D-Texas).
The Senate candidates being supported by 314 Action in 2018 include Philip Bredesen (D-Tennessee), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada).
In addition to exclusively supporting Democratic Congressional candidates, 314 Action has taken aim at Republican elected officials, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology.
314 Action began 2017 with no cash on hand. When the FEC reporting period began on July 1, 2017, 314 Action had $11,291 cash on hand. During the period July 1 to December 31, 2017, 314 Action received $246,322 in contributions, bringing its year-end total receipts to $288,145. During the same period it dispersed $137,652, leaving it with an end-of-period cash on hand total of $119,961.
In 2018, 314 Action has significantly increased both its receipts and expenditures. During the first two months of 2018, 314 Action received $211,216 in contributions. Its disbursements totaled $75,256 during the period, leaving it with $255,920 cash on hand at the end of February. During March, 314 Action received $96,576 and disbursed $84,801, leaving it was $267,696 cash on hand. During April, 314 Action received $266,743 and disbursed $76,197, leaving it with $458,242 cash on hand at the close of the reporting period.
Since changing its filing frequency to monthly in March 2018, 314 Action’s FEC filings have shown that several well-known left-of-center political operatives and vendors have received significant funding from 314 Action in support of the organization’s preferred Democratic congressional candidates.
The recipients of 314 Action funding include Break Something LLC, Ambrosino, Muir, Hansen & Crounse, Bergmann Zwerdling Direct, West Coast Public Affairs, Joe Trippi & Associates, Sexton Group, and Rising Tide Interactive. All of these entities have significant ties to progressive candidates and organizations.
The President of 314 Action is Shaughnessy Naughton. In 2014 and 2016 she ran for Congress as a Democrat from Pennsylvania, failing to advance out of the Democratic primary on both occasions. In losing, she argued her outsider status “locked her out of traditional donor circles.” After her failed bid, she formed 314 Action, arguing “[a] lot of scientists traditionally feel that science is above politics but we’re seeing that politics is not above getting involved in science.”
Joshua Morrow serves as executive director of 314 Action. He began his political involvement as a field director for Harry Reid’s 1998 campaign for U.S. Senate. He later served as chief strategist to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).
Harmony Knutson serves as the PAC’s director of advocacy, Erik Polyak as director of campaigns, and Ted Bordelon as director of communications. All three staff members have long histories of Democratic and liberal activism.
Knutson has worked with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, EMILY’s List, and Defenders of Wildlife. She has also worked directly with U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), and Bob Graham (D-Florida).
Polyak previously worked for Naughton in her failed 2016 Congressional bid, Tammy Duckworth’s 2016 campaign for U.S. Senate in Illinois, the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign, a 2014 Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Red to Blue race, Tammy Duckworth’s 2012 Congressional campaign, and the 2012 Lois Frankel Congressional campaign.