Democrats Are Finding Creative Ways Around Corporate PAC Pledges

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

During the 2018 midterms, almost 200 Democrats swore off money from corporate PACs, a huge shift from previous recent elections. But as we wrote at the time, many of these Democrats still benefitted from big money in other ways, with super PACs funded by the rich spending heavily to support them. It’s a mark of how limited a gesture not taking corporate PAC money is; besides, those PACs can only donate a maximum of $5,000 per candidate, which isn’t a lot in many districts.


And it seems like many of these Democrats aren’t really following the spirit of the pledge now that they’re in office. According to Politico, some Democrats are hosting fundraisers with corporate lobbyists, even while specifying that they can’t take money from corporate PACs on the invitations. A fundraiser for Gil Cisneros, a freshman congressman from Southern California, was hosted by four lobbyists representing “major corporate clients including AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft, Pfizer, Verizon and Wells Fargo.”

Candidates for 2020 seats are already doing the same dance:

And Mark Kelly, a Democrat running for Senate in Arizona, is one of a dozen congressional candidates running this year who’ve already promised not to take corporate PAC money.

“This campaign is about the people of Arizona, not corporate PACs and the mess they’ve created in Washington,” Kelly said in a statement on his website. “I won’t take a dime of corporate PAC money, and I’ll only answer to Arizonans.”

But Kelly held a fundraiser late last month hosted by five lobbyists at the offices of the lobbying firm Capitol Counsel, which represents ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin and other big corporations, according to an invitation obtained by The Intercept.

Refusing to take corporate PAC pledges meaningless if it isn’t accompanied by other efforts to keep corporate influence away from your campaign. Having fundraisers for your campaign at the offices of lobbyists is not compatible with this rhetoric, and does nothing to move the Democratic party towards actually representing people, not corporations.

A sea change is needed in Democratic politics, and make no mistake: neither lobbyists nor politicians are going to accept that change willingly.

Splinter politics writer.