Every Voice


Candidates and Elected Officials Can’t Stop Talking About Money in Politics

July 27, 2018 | Adam Smith

As public anger about the power of big money in our politics grows, candidates and elected officials around the country are responding by offering solutions and pledging to fight for reform if they’re elected. In just the last week, we’ve seen more than a dozen federal candidates and elected officials weigh in on our broken campaign finance system. Here are some examples.

  • On Monday, Betsy Rader–running against Rep. Dave Joyce in the competitive OH-14 race–called on Joyce to return donations from companies she says exacerbated the opioid crisis. “Paying fines and donating to politicians can’t just be a cost of doing business for big pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “I took the No Corporate PAC pledge, because voters are frustrated by the the big money that has infiltrated our politics. It’s time that we get corporate money out of our campaigns and solve these problems.”
  • A debate between Democrats vying for Massachusetts 3rd Congressional district focused quite a bit on candidate fundraising and where they got their money, with the moderator asking, “What are the sources of funding for your campaign?”
  • On Tuesday, a New York Times profile of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand noted, “Today, Ms. Gillibrand, who has long called for publicly financed campaigns, says that her decade-plus in Washington has taught her that ‘every ill in Congress, no matter what it is, it will stem from the fact that money corrupts politicians and politics.'”
  • On Tuesday, Montana Sen. Jon Tester–facing a tough re-election race this year–introduced legislation to reverse the Treasury Department’s decision to no longer require 501c4 groups to disclose their donors to the IRS. “Dark money is a threat to our democracy…I will do everything I can to defend Montanans from this shadowy behavior because we need more light in our elections not less,” he said.
  • That same day, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock sued the agency over the decision. “The goal of the litigation is to make sure that dark money and foreign money isn’t flowing into our elections unchecked,” Bullock said.
  • Staten Island Congressional candidate Max Rose used a whiteboard to explain his $0 in corporate PAC money and Rep. Dan Donovan’s tens of thousands: “These corporate PACs aren’t giving Dan Donovan money because he’s such a great guy, they’re giving him money so they can gain access and lower their regulations and increase their profits and that hurts us.
  • Democratic challenger Anthony Brindisi, running in one of the top battleground House races in New York this year, told a bunch of voters at a town hall in his district on Tuesday, “There should be more transparency in who’s funding these campaigns and disclosure as to who these donors are in campaigns. … I’ve got to lead by example; that’s why I decided not to accept corporate PAC money. … I’m very proud that out of all the campaigns being run across the country for Congress, we’re actually in the top 20 of all campaigns in terms of small donations. That’s how a campaign should be funded.”
  • On Wednesday, Rep. John Sarbanes and Sen. Michael Bennett introduced the CLEAN Act, “a bill to curb pay-to-play politics and limit the undue access and influence of lobbyists in Washington.”
  • Also on Wednesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse became the seventh sitting U.S. Senator to forswear corporate PAC money. “Some time ago, I was asked at a community meeting why I accepted corporate PAC money,” Whitehouse wrote in an email to his supporters. “That question stuck in my mind. I told the young man who asked the question that I’d think about it, and I have. … My heart tells me I should stop.”
  • Whitehouse’s Rhode Island colleague, Rep. David Ciccilline, joined him.
  • Hawaii State Rep. Kaniela Ing, running for Hawaii’s first Congressional seat, said in a viral new ad, “The majority of people in Hawaii and across the nation support these ideas, but big donors don’t. I’m the only candidate in this race who isn’t taking corporate money.”
  • Randy Bryce, hoping to take retiring Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat in the fall, tweeted about super PAC fundraising: “We have to get big money out of politics and overturn Citizens United. This is pay to play politics at its worst. This is legalized bribery.”
  • Jason Crow, challenging Rep. Mike Coffman in the competitive CO-6 district, said Wednesday that while his opponent refuses to agree to debates, Coffman, “makes himself available to special interest donors like the DeVos family and the NRA when he accepts the cash that fuels his campaign.”
  • In Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s first ad for his Senate campaign released Thursday, he says at the end, “You put me into this position of public trust and I serve only you. That’s the beauty of the way that we’re doing this campaign right now. No PACs, just people.”
  • Indiana Democratic House candidate Mel Hall released an ad this week that stated, “In Congress, Mel will reject every Congressional perk, never take lobbyist or corporate PAC money, and serve a three-term limit.”

Interested in getting people you know on the record in support of reform? Check out FixDemocracyNow.com.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.

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