Democrat Mike Franken, who is challenging Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to represent Iowa for the Senate seat, says he will stand up to “special interests” in Washington to accept corporate PAC money. He is campaigning with a pledge that he will not.
However, Republicans accused Franken of bending that promise, saying that funds generated by corporate PACs flowed into his campaign funds, even though Franken did not receive the money directly.
Franken’s critics point to the endowment he got from the Leadership PAC. A PAC is a political action committee associated with a current or former member of Congress that typically donates to candidates of the same party. Some of these groups received donations from his PAC at the corporation, but there was disagreement over how much receiving their donations resembled receiving his PAC’s money at the corporation. there is.
The Republican got these donations as evidence that he had broken the spirit of the non-corporate PAC, if not letters of pledge.
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Kush Desai, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in a press release, “He is taking thousands of dollars from the Democratic PAC, which is funded by a group of companies.” He circumvented his self-imposed pledge to not take a single cent of last week.
Franken’s campaign spokesperson, CJ Petersen, said Franken kept its promise to refuse corporate PAC donations.
“As he promised Iowans, Mike Franken never took a dime from a corporate PAC. We will not be liable for any damages,” Petersen said in an email. “Protect profits from the pharmaceutical industry by taking approximately $1.4 million from the pharmaceutical industry, preventing them from capping insulin costs at $35 a month, and creating a bill that prohibits Medicare from negotiating to lower prices. Unlike Chuck Grassley, who voted for
A PAC, short for Political Action Committee, is a committee organized around raising money and using it to influence elections. PAC generally can be divided into he three categories of business, labor and ideology.
Corporate PACs are committees made up of contributions made by employees of specific companies. Corporations are not allowed to make donations directly to the candidate, and corporate funds will not be used in her PAC. Corporate PACs are usually limited to $5,000 he can donate to a candidate during an election.
In 2018 and 2020, many Democratic congressional candidates supported not receiving corporate PAC funding. Franken is one of several candidates for both incumbents and challengers who have delivered on that promise this year.
Most of Franken’s money comes from private donations. Of his $4.6 million raised, Franken received $46,000 from his 12 PACs, including the Union PAC, Ideology PAC and Leadership PAC, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. .
Of these Leadership PACs, three have Corporate PAC contributions. The Defense Democratic Party, a committee under US Representative Elaine Luria (D-Va.), donated $1,000. Common Ground, in partnership with Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), donated $5,000.
For example, Common Ground PAC received approximately $450,000 of the $1.4 million raised from other PACs, according to FEC data. Not all are corporate PACs, but donors include PACs representing employees of Amazon, Eli Lily, Wells Fargo, and dozens of other companies.
Overall, these three donations represent just 0.16% of the funds Franken has raised so far.
A fourth group, Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly’s Liftoff PAC, received funding from the National Association of Realtors, which champions the interests of the retail industry, although it is not affiliated with any particular company. Liftoff PAC donated his $2,500 to Franken’s campaign.
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Is accepting leadership donations circumventing pledges?
End Citizens United, an interest group seeking to overturn a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gave corporations the freedom to spend money to influence elections, has led Franken and many other Democrats to support the election. I started pledging that I was doing a cycle.
The group supports Democratic candidates for Congress, and most (but not all) of the candidates they support have pledged not to accept corporate PAC contributions.
Franken has adhered to its pledge rules by not receiving funding from the corporate PAC. The organization says there is a big difference between receiving funding from a corporate PAC and a leadership PAC that receives corporate PAC support.
End Citizens United spokesperson Tina Olechowski said in an emailed statement that receiving money from the Leadership PAC is not the “remote equivalent” of receiving money from the Corporate PAC. .
“Candidates who deny companies PAC funding deny companies the ability to access or sway the office once,” Olechowski said. “Leadership PACs are run by members of Congress to help elect more Democrats or Republicans. It’s not surprising.”
However, a spokesperson for Grassley’s campaign said Franken’s language was misleading, especially in his recent advertisements, and that corporate PAC money had been spent on his campaign. said.
“In the ad, Mike Franken promised to be a senator who ‘takes no money’ from ‘corporate special interest groups.’ said Mikaela Sunderman, spokesperson for the campaign. It doesn’t stop being “enterprise.”
“Mike Franken’s attempt to play word games with the people of Iowa and smuggle in corporate cash collected through back channels requires the people of Iowa to know about Franken’s commitment to keeping his promises. It tells everything.
influence and access
Michael Kang, a law professor at Northwestern University, writing about the campaign’s funding, said Franken’s claim to reject corporate PAC funding was correct, but that corporate PAC funding indirectly contributed to his campaign. I have a feeling that it has arrived.
“I don’t think he’s lying, but it’s also a case where some context is involved,” he said. “And it’s true that some corporate support is ultimately helping his campaign.
According to Pete Quist, deputy director of research at OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign donations, companies’ PAC donations are primarily for granting access to members of Congress.
Research shows that major donors to campaigns, including the PAC, are more likely to participate in interviews with executives than individuals or groups who are not donating, he said. In that sense, Quist and Kang agreed that the contributions the Companies Commission makes to the Leadership PAC are unlikely to grant such access should Franken be elected.
“It would be difficult for him to have a relationship with the Corporate PAC, and it would be difficult for the Corporate PAC to influence him if the Corporate PAC had not made a decision to direct funds to him. We do,” said Kang.
In general, corporate PACs overwhelmingly donate to incumbents, making it easier for non-incumbent candidates to avoid contributing to corporate PACs. According to Quist, both Democrats and Republicans who accept donations will get a big financial boost.
Grassley has raised over $7.6 million for his re-election campaign since 2017. According to OpenSecrets, since the beginning of 2021, he has raised his $1.6 million from his PAC, about 77% of which is from his PAC related to business.
“If you’re an elected official and you’re running for re-election, there’s a tendency for corporate political campaigns to be funded massively and early,” Quist said.