Less than six months after winning seats in Congress partly on pledges to stay clear of corporate campaign cash, many new members of the House Democratic majority are violating the spirit if not the letter of those promises.
The swift movement away from their vows, and toward the special interests they previously spurned, is as clear a reminder as any of this truism of today's threatened democracy: The relentless drive for donations often plows through a politician's promises, including to finance their ambitions without the traditional reliance on the quid-pro-quo-implied generosity of big business.
At least 43 House Democrats, nearly one in five members of the caucus, have pledged not to accept donations from corporate political action committees, according to End Citizens United PAC, which seeks to reverse the Supreme Court's decision that largely deregulated the world of federal campaign finance. So have nine Democratic senators, several of them presidential candidates.
But many of those lawmakers have decided they can rationalize a decision to forswear the corporate PAC money while at the same time seeking contributions from the lobbyists advocating for those companies' interests.
Politico details today a series of fundraisers hosted for House newcomers by the K Street denizens who press the cases for such corporate behemoths as AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft, Pfizer, Verizon, Wells Fargo, Boeing, Citigroup, Johnson & Johnson, Nike and United Airlines. Many of the lawmakers took seats away from Republicans last fall in districts sure to be highly competitive again next year.
And they are being joined by a growing roster who have promised not to take corporate PAC money as they seek Democratic nominations for Congress in 2020, but are happily accepting checks from business lobbyists.
"This campaign is about the people of Arizona, not corporate PACs and the mess they've created in Washington," Mark Kelly, the former astronaut challenging GOP Sen. Martha McSally, says on his website. But, according to an invitation obtained by The Intercept, he was feted at a fundraiser last month at Capitol Counsel, which represents ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase and Lockheed Martin.
Some Democratic lobbyists are trying to persuade candidates and members who haven't yet sworn off corporate PAC money not to do so. "We are trying to educate members about the importance of employee-funded PACs to the campaign finance system," National Association of Business PACs President Catherine McDaniel, who leads a trade group for corporate PACs, told Politico.
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