Jon Cooper, the former Suffolk County legislator and major fundraiser for President Barack Obama, said Wednesday that he will be chairman of a new super PAC that will raise money to defeat Donald Trump — but not to support Hillary Clinton.
Cooper, president of Spectronics Corp. in Westbury, said he signed on last week to the super PAC, named Keep America Great, which aims to raise money to run television and digital ads to stop Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.
“I was approached a couple of weeks ago by Keep America Great, a super PAC formed not necessarily to support a Democratic candidate, but to oppose Donald Trump,” Cooper said in a telephone interview. “And I realized there had been some ill-fated PACs that Republicans had formed to stop Trump, but they had been unsuccessful.”
He said it won’t back Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, because she already has super PACs such as Priories USA helping her.
“I thought there was a need for a home for Hillary supporters, [Sen.] Bernie [Sanders] supporters and disaffected Republicans to make sure Donald Trump does not become the next president,” Cooper said.
“We’re initially going to be planning a series of star-studded events in New York and in Los Angeles in the coming weeks. We’ve heard back from over a dozen A-list celebrities that have signed on — I can’t tell you their names yet,” Cooper said.
“They’re also are setting up groups at over 100 college campuses,” to try to tap into the millennials who came out in droves for Clinton rival Sanders (I-Vt.), Cooper said.
Keep America Great was created in March by Nate Lerner, a Democratic political operative who has worked in Pennsylvania and now is based in New York. It has not reported raising any money to the Federal Election Commission.
Lerner serves as the PAC’s executive director. Obama campaign veteran Scott Dworkin will serve as senior adviser and Francesca Lucia will be the national finance director. Dworkin and Lucia work at the Washington, D.C., political firm Bulldog Finance Group.
Dworkin was involved in efforts to draft Vice President Joe Biden or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as alternatives to Clinton.
For Cooper, becoming chair of the PAC represents a re-entry into presidential politics. He was an early major fundraiser for Obama in 2008 when most New Yorkers backed Clinton. He also served as a major fundraiser, or bundler, in 2012 for Obama’s re-election.
Last year, Cooper initially agreed to raise funds for Clinton’s 2016 run, but then changed his mind. He then served as finance chairman of Draft Biden, a group that tried, unsuccessfully, to lure Vice President Joe Biden into making a bid for president.
Cooper found himself without a candidate. He said he pulled away from Clinton because he said he couldn’t sell her candidacy to his progressive friends. And as a successful businessman, he was wary of Sanders, who has a socialist agenda.
Cooper said in a news release about his new role: “Our mission over the next five months is to help ensure that everyone is aware of Mr. Trump’s long record of distortions, lies and even fraud. His recent racist attacks against a respected federal judge, his fervent support of assault weapons even after the mass murder in Orlando, his mocking of people with disabilities — all provide a window into his heart and soul. And that should give all fair-minded Americans pause.”