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Where the 2020 Candidates Stand on Campaign Finance – Sludge | @readsludge

Where the 2020 Candidates Stand on Campaign Finance – Sludge from @readsludge
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As we head enter the 2020 presidential election season, more people are talking about Big Money’s grip on U.S. elections than ever. Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and groups can spend on campaigns. And during the 2018 cycle, dozens of Democratic candidates for Congress rejected contributions from corporate PACs, a strategy that voters liked.

As we enter the 2020 presidential race, Sludge is tracking the various campaign finance pledges and promises made by the many candidates, as well as any broken promises that may ensue. We will continue to update this page throughout the race.

Many Democrats have already announced they’ll be rejecting corporate PAC money. Some have signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, a promise to reject all campaign donations from the PACs of fossil fuel companies as well as donations of over $200 from fossil fuel executives.

Outside support from super PACs—independent political groups that are allowed to accept and spend unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, and unions—is an issue that candidates have spoken less about, but it’s emerging as something Democrats will need to address.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and another subsequent lower court decision enabled unlimited corporate donations in politics. Many Democratic candidates say they want to overturn Citizens United.

Sludge reached out to the current 2020 contenders with a campaign finance questionnaire. We haven’t heard back from most candidates yet, so we are relying on existing statements, social media posts, and news reports to fill in the gaps. The chart below indicates promises they have made with a check mark. An “X” indicates a policy the candidate has explicitly broken or rejected, and blanks indicate policies that candidates haven’t yet addressed directly.

The promises apply to the primary election only, as the victorious candidate may alter their policies for the general election.

Here are details on the campaign finance promises of the major candidates who have declared for the 2020 presidential election:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

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  • No corporate PAC donations (link)
  • No federal lobbyist donations (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Rejects super PAC support (link)
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates* (link)
  • Supports expansion of presidential public campaign finance program* (link)

*All Democratic senators signed on to the For The People Act, which creates a congressional public campaign finance program and expands the existing presidential program. The bill also proposes to overturn Citizens United, among many other measures.

On Feb. 13, 2018, Booker announced that he would no longer accept corporate PAC donations. Until then, his Senate campaign had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate PACs, which he can transfer to his presidential campaign. This is the case with some other candidates as well.

Before Booker announced his candidacy, Democratic donor Steve Phillips launched a super PAC, Dream United, to back him.

Pete Buttigieg (D-Ind.), mayor of South Bend, Indiana

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  • No corporate PAC donations (link)
  • No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)

In 2017, Buttigieg created a Carey committee, a hybrid super PAC and traditional PAC, called Hitting Home PAC, which received money from corporate executives and donated to a number of Democratic congressional candidates in the 2018 election cycle.

Also in 2017, when running for Democratic National Committee chair, he did not endorse reinstating a ban on lobbyist donations to the DNC.

Buttigieg does not appear to be avoiding big-dollar fundraisers.

Julian Castro (D-Texas), former HUD secretary and San Antonio mayor

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  • No PAC donations of any kind (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Rejects super PAC support (link)

In 2016, Castro co-hosted a big-dollar fundraiser for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

John Delaney (D-Md.), former U.S. representative from Maryland

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  • No corporate PAC donations (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Co-sponsored bill extending public financing to congressional candidates (link)

Former finance executive Delaney won’t be taking corporate PAC contributions, but he’s self-funding his campaign: He’s already pumped over $4.6 million into it, according to FEC data.

In 2017, Delaney hosted several big-dollar fundraisers for his House campaign.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

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Gabbard completed the Sludge campaign finance questionnaire and gave the following answers:

  • No PAC donations of any kind
  • No federal lobbyist donations
  • No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United
  • Rejects super PAC support
  • Opposes self-funding
  • Will swear off “big-money fundraisers”
  • Supports expansion of presidential public campaign finance program
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates

The Hawaii rep pledged not to self-fund her campaign and opposes other candidates self-funding as well.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

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  • No corporate PAC donations (link)
  • No federal lobbyist donations (link)
  • No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Rejects single-candidate super PAC support (link)
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates (link)
  • Supports expansion of presidential public campaign finance program (link)

Gillibrand has said she doesn’t support “individual super PACs,” or super PACs established to support just one candidate, but it’s unclear if she would disavow support from super PACs such as Priorities USA that could potentially support multiple candidates.

She is not avoiding large, corporate fundraisers.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)

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  • No corporate PAC donations (link)
  • No federal lobbyist donations (link)
  • Rejects super PAC support* (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates (link)
  • Supports expansion of presidential public campaign finance program (link)

*Harris said she “rejects super PAC activity” but did not offer specifics. She’s been attending big-dollar fundraisers in California recently.

John Hickenlooper (D-Co.), former governor of Colorado

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  • No corporate PAC donations (link)

Hickenlooper formed a leadership PAC in September 2018, a predecessor to his presidential exploratory committee. The Giddy Up PAC took in hundreds of thousands of dollars last year, much of it from donors who gave the maximum $5,000 donation. Hickenlooper hosted a big-money fundraiser for the PAC in New York City in February.

The Colorado governor, a proponent of fracking, signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, only to rescind his commitment when learning he’d have to refuse large donations from oil and gas executives.

Hickenlooper may have broken federal campaign finance law by saying he was running for president without abiding by the fundraising restrictions imposed on official candidates.

[See all of Sludge’s 2020 coverage]

Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), governor of Washington

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  • No corporate PAC money (link)
  • No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)

A super PAC, Act Now on Climate, was formed to exclusively support him in the presidential race, and he hasn’t disavowed it. End Citizens United wrote Inslee a letter asking him to disavow the super PAC, but instead, he welcomed it.

Inslee has in the past expressed support for public campaign financing.

In the past, he’s benefited from big-money fundraisers.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

Wikimedia
  • No corporate PAC donations (link)
  • No federal lobbyist donations (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Rejects super PAC support (link)
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates (link)
  • Supports expansion of presidential public campaign finance program (link)

Klobuchar raised funds at a big-dollar fundraiser this year.

Wayne Messam (D), mayor of Miramar, Florida

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  • No Fossil Fuel Money pledge (link)

Messam recently launched his campaign, so there is little available information about his campaign finance positions. In his last mayoral race, he loaned his campaign roughly $40,000.

Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), former U.S. representative

Beto for Congress/Flickr
  • No PAC donations of any kind (link)
  • No lobbyist donations (link)
  • No corporate donations (these are illegal) (link)
  • No special-interest donations (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates (link)

In the 2018 Texas Senate race, O’Rourke did not accept PAC donations, and he’s doing the same again. He said he will not sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge this time, however, after being exposed by Sludge for breaking the pledge last year. At a rally on March 22, O’Rourke responded to a question about fossil fuel-linked donations by saying that while he was a big recipient in 2018, he was also a big recipient of donations from hairdressers, pharmacists, and teachers.

Last year, O’Rourke attended a big-money fundraiser for his Senate campaign.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.)

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  • No corporate PAC donations (link)
  • No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (link)
  • Rejects super PAC support (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates (link)
  • Supports expansion of presidential public campaign finance program (link)

Sanders has long been in favor of campaign finance reform, and in the 2016 race, he said, “I do not have a super PAC, and I do not want a super PAC.”

President Donald Trump (R)

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Despite his statements in the 2016 race, Trump has fully embraced all aspects of Big Money in politics; on the day of his inauguration, he launched his re-election campaign, which has already amassed tens of millions of dollars. He has already broken most of the campaign finance planks addressed in this questionnaire.

Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), U.S. senator from Massachusetts

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  • No PAC donations of any kind (link)
  • No federal lobbyist donations (link)
  • No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (link)
  • Rejects super PAC support (link)
  • Opposes self-funding (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • Will swear off “big-money fundraisers” (link)
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates (link)
  • Supports expansion of presidential public campaign finance program (link)

Warren has adopted perhaps the most aggressive anti-big money stance of all candidates, even saying she won’t host any “fancy receptions or big money fundraisers” as a way of treating every donor equally, regardless of the size of their donations. She also shut down her joint fundraising committee, saying that candidates shouldn’t be fundraising from PACs at all.

Marianne Williamson (D), author and lecturer

Williamson submitted her answers to Sludge’s questionnaire.

Wikimedia
  • No corporate PAC money
  • No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United
  • Rejects super PAC support
  • Will not self-fund
  • Supports extending public campaign financing to congressional candidates
  • Supports expansion of presidential public campaign finance program

Regarding lobbyist contributions, Williamson told Sludge, “There are some lobbyists who support women’s rights, or the poor. They do good work on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. I will reject any contribution that I deem unsuitable to my candidacy or the tenants of my presidency.”

Williamson said she will participate in big-dollar fundraisers. “I am not prejudiced against the rich as I am not prejudiced against the poor. Our donations average about $39.40 per donor, and our small donations will always outweigh the large.”

Williamson won’t fund her campaign but does not oppose other candidates doing so.

Andrew Yang (D-Calif.), entrepreneur

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  • No corporate PAC money (link)
  • Overturn Citizens United (link)
  • No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (link)
  • End super PACs (link)
  • Support expanding public campaign financing (link)

Yang supports a form of public financing he calls “Democracy Dollars,” a plan for publicly funded $100 vouchers that voters can give to the candidate(s) of their choice.

He proposes the elimination of super PACs but doesn’t state explicitly that he’ll reject super PAC support on his website.

The entrepreneur founded his presidential campaign committee in 2017, and his campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Committee do not indicate he’s accepted any corporate PAC donations. He reported donating $48,000 to his campaign as of the end of 2018.


Here is the questionnaire Sludge sent to the presidential candidates:

1. Do you reject corporate PAC donations?

2. Do you reject all PAC donations?

3. Do you reject donations from federal lobbyists?

4. Do you want to overturn Citizens United?

5. Do you reject support from single-candidate super PACs?

6. Do you reject support from all super PACs?

7. Did you sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge? If not, will you?

8. Do you pledge not to self-fund your campaign? Do you oppose other candidates self-funding?

9. Will you participate in “fancy receptions or big money fundraisers only with people who can write the big checks” (as Elizabeth Warren put it) or other similar events that privilege large donors?

10. Are you participating in the public financing program for presidential candidates?

11. Do you support the expansion of the public financing program for presidential candidates?

12. Do you support a public financing program for congressional candidates?


This post will be updated as new information becomes available. If you have any information on these candidates and their campaign finance commitments, email me: alex@readsludge.com


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Originally posted by Sludge on 2019-04-01 11:33:56

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