Paula Jean Swearengin, Former Ally Of Ocasio-Cortez, Says Congresswoman Betrayed Small Donors Who ‘Gave Up Their Lunch Money’

(Screenshot via Twitter/briebriejoy) (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Paula Jean Swearengin, a former West Virginia Senate candidate, blasted Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday for a series of donations to “corporate candidates.”

Swearengin lost to incumbent Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito by more than 40 points in 2020 and to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin by nearly 40 in a 2018 primary. She appeared in the 2019 Netflix documentary “Knock Down The House” alongside Ocasio-Cortez and now-Democratic Missouri Rep. Cori Bush. All three were endorsed by the left-wing group Justice Democrats, although only Ocasio-Cortez won during the cycle.

“People sacrificed, millions of Americans, for so-called grassroots campaigns, and I think that the progressive label has been co-opted by a lot of these corporate candidates. A lot of people gave up a lot of their time, millions of Americans did, they gave up their money, they gave up their lunch, their bill money, to fight for candidates that now some of them are elected and they’re not fighting for us,” Swearengin told podcast host and former Bernie Sanders press secretary Briahna Joy Gray.

“AOC, you know, she took grassroots money with her grassroots PAC and gave it to corporate candidates. People that did give up their lunch money, people that did work hard for her, people that did take their bill money and give it to her. And you know she turned around and gave it to people that she’s supposed to fight against,” Swearengin continued.

Ocasio-Cortez announced the Courage to Change Political Action Committee (PAC) in January 2020, shortly after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced that it would not employ vendors and firms that worked on behalf of primary challengers to incumbents. Through Courage to Change, Ocasio-Cortez distributed campaign funds to 21 candidates during the 2020 election cycle, and 33 candidates during the 2022 election cycle. (RELATED: Here’s How Dem Candidates Who Supported Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Are Faring In The Primaries)

Six relatively moderate Democratic House members, including Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas, and Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind returned the contributions after the National Republican Congressional Committee publicized them. Maine Rep. Jared Golden, who was the only Democrat in the House to oppose the Build Back Better social spending package, is among the 27 Democrats who did not refund a Courage to Change donation.

Swearengin is not the first left-wing political figure to criticize Ocasio-Cortez’s PAC operations. Ross Barkan, a columnist for The Guardian and former New York state Senate candidate, accused Ocasio-Cortez and Courage to Change of “avoid[ing]… the toughest fights” while “sidelining” the Democratic Socialists of America.

Eva Putzova, who attempted to primary Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran in 2020, asserted that Ocasio-Cortez’s donation to O’Halleran’s campaign is proof that the organization “doesn’t live up to its own declared purpose.” She also described the donation as “a stab into the back of all progressive challengers.”