Representative Bill Foster held off on creating his science support political action committee (PAC) Franklin’s List to return to Congress. But there’s now a science support Super PAC to carry that burden. First In Science PAC was launched in mid-February with the goal of raising $100 million to support candidates in the 2014 elections who want more federal funding for so-called basic research. There is an associated education organization, FirstInScience.Org, intended to educate Congress and the public on the value of basic research.
First In Science was founded by Jim Lantry and is based in La Jolla, California. Lantry, according to his LinkedIn profile, has a long career in lobbying and political consultancy with an emphasis on California issues. His most recent legislative accomplishment involves getting California law SB 946 passed, which mandates insurance coverage for behavioral therapy treatments connected to diagnoses of autism. Given Lantry’s experience, and the proximity of First In Science to San Diego, trends in life sciences (he has cited the departure of talent overseas) are a large motivator for him. It was a strong theme in his recent Congressional testimony.
The initial goals of First In Science are twofold (FISPAC is the campaign arm, FISORG the education arm).
“FISPAC’s initial goal is to support at least fifty targeted candidates, both challengers and incumbents, in the 2014 elections. FISORG, meanwhile, has the primary goal of educating Congress and the voting public on the importance of government funding of basic research.”
There will be nearly 470 House and Senate races contested in 2014. With the $100 million goal, the 50 candidates could average $2 million of support from First In Science PAC. But without some demonstration that Lantry has at least some of that $100 million close at hand, or some detailed strategies, I suspect he’ll come up a bit short. I just don’t see this effort rolling into a AAAS meeting and racking up Colbert Super PAC style donations. Not without some serious publicity and charisma.
I have heard Lantry speak as to his plans and specific interests. He strikes me as cognizant of the challenges he faces and is willing to proceed regardless. He is still working on finding key supporters for the board of these organizations. His success there likely affects the larger success of the Super PAC. As those names are announced, I’ll note them on the blog or the Twitter feed.