Investigative Group

Democrats Who Want To Ban Corporate PACs Took Donations From PACs Bankrolled By Major Corporations

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Gabe Kaminsky Investigative Reporter
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  • Five Democratic members of Congress behind a bill that would ban corporate political action committees (PAC) have taken hundreds of thousands combined in 2021 and 2022 from Democratic leadership PACs bankrolled by corporations, records show. 
  • For instance, California Rep. Josh Harder’s campaign has taken roughly $67,000 from leadership PACs that have accepted donations from a variety of corporate PACs, including those for Northrop Grumman, CVS, Boeing and Aflac.
  • “I don’t take corporate PAC money because I work for my community, not the highest bidder,” Harder, who along with the other members has pledged to not accept corporate PAC money, said in March.

Congressional Democrats behind legislation that would ban corporations from operating political action committees (PAC) took large campaign checks in 2021 and 2022 from PACs funded by major corporations, records show.

California Rep. Josh Harder in April 2021 introduced the Ban Corporate PACs Act, which has been co-sponsored by Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas, Maine Rep. Jared Golden and California Rep. Mike Levin. However, these same lawmakers have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars combined from Democratic leadership PACs backed by corporations, according to federal campaign records reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

In addition to prohibiting corporations from operating PACs, Harder’s bill one year after being enacted would dissolve existing corporate PACs. It is unclear in the months ahead whether more Democrats intend to back the bill, which has stalled and not received widespread support.

“I don’t take corporate PAC money because I work for my community, not the highest bidder,” Harder, who along with the other members has pledged to not accept corporate PAC money, tweeted in March. (RELATED: Mark Kelly Raked In Cash From Corporate-Backed PACs Despite Pledging To Refuse ‘Corporate PAC Money’)

But Harder’s campaign in 2021 and 2022 has received roughly $67,000 from PACs tied to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Rep. Adam Schiff, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Georgia Rep. David Scott, filings show. These same PACs in 2021 and 2022 have raked in donations from a variety of corporate PACs, including those for Northrop Grumman, CVS, Boeing and Aflac.

Golden’s campaign accepted around $48,000 in campaign donations in 2021 and 2022 from the PACs for Schiff and Hoyer. The congressman’s campaign also has raked in over $7,100 from a Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s leadership PAC, which raised $12,500 in 2021 and 2022 from PACs for Microsoft, AT&T and UnitedHealth.

Still, Golden touted in May 2020 that he is “fighting for the Mainers’ who work hard just to keep up with the bills” through his rejection of corporate PAC money.

“These Democrats are complete frauds and if they were really against corporate PAC money, they’d give back the thousands of dollars they’ve taken from leadership PACs,” Camille Gallo, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), told the DCNF.

But Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for the left-wing think tank Public Citizen, pushed back on the idea that it’s hypocritical for the lawmakers to take donations from leadership PACs funded by corporations. He pointed to the fact that the donations to the leadership PACs come from individuals at the corporations.

“The NRCC is twisting its words,” Holman told the DCNF. “Individuals from corporations — secretaries, employees, managers and even CEOs — may make contributions to leadership PACs from their own pockets. These are donations from individual persons, not from some CEO dipping into other people’s money in the corporate treasury.”

While corporate PACs fundraise from high-level employees and stockholders, government affairs staffers and corporate lobbyists typically run them and authorize contributions, according to End Citizens United, left-wing nonprofit. Campaign filings that the DCNF reviewed explicitly named the corporations.

Similarly, Slotkin’s campaign in 2021 and 2022 has gotten over $81,000 from leadership PACs for Schiff, Rhode Island Rep. Sheldon Whitehouse, Washington Rep. Adam Smith and California Rep. Pete Aguilar. These committees have received thousands in donations from other PACs, including those for Boeing, AT&T, General Dynamics and Nike, filings show.

Slotkin, however, claimed in June upon deciding to co-sponsor the Ban Corporate PACs Act that “corporate money” is “warping the political process and bending it to suit” the agenda of corporations.

Pappas’ campaign took in almost $82,000 from the corporate-funded leadership PACs for Hoyer, Schiff, New York Rep. Ritchie Torres, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark and New Hampshire Rep. Jeanne Shaheen. But at the same time, Pappas said in March 2018 his “campaign will not be accepting any corporate PAC money.”

Levin claimed in May 2022 he has never “taken a dime in corporate PAC money.” Still, his campaign in 2021 and 2022 accepted contributions from several leadership PACs, including almost $16,000 from committees tied to Hoyer and New York Rep. Sean Maloney. Maloney’s PAC took thousands in 2021 and 2022 from PACs for Verizon, UnitedHealth, Pfizer, CVS and FedEx.

Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Jon Ossoff of Georgia introduced their own bill to ban corporate PACs in January. Kelly has claimed he does not “take a dime of corporate PAC money” but since 2019 has taken roughly $154,000 from Democratic leadership PACs funded by corporations, the DCNF reported.

Offices for Harder, Slotkin, Pappas, Golden and Levin did not respond to requests for comment.

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