Congressman Beto O’Rourke is running for
US Senate in Texas without corporate PAC money. (Photo credit: Flickr)
Many of the aspects of American politics we hate the most are in some way or another related to the influence of big money. Whether it is the gun lobby, health insurance companies, big oil, big pharma, big banks, or perhaps most disturbingly, the weapons lobby, corporate interests sway politicians, even ones with the best of intentions away from representing the needs of the American people, and towards the needs of the rich and powerful.
We have seen time and time again that our elected representatives, both Democrat, and Republican, promise to do one thing and then proceed to turn around and do the exact opposite. With their re-election chances hanging in their ability to raise funds, however, many politicians are left with little choice but to kowtow to moneyed interests and panhandle corporations and dark money groups for donations.
With politicians selling out their constituents left, right, and center, people are angry, really angry. People are angry that they are getting charged exorbitant amounts for prescription drugs while Cory Booker, despite vowing to lower health care costs and stick up for working people, voted against allowing medications to be imported from Canada, likely because of contributions to his campaign coffers by PhRMA PAC, an organization representing pharmaceutical manufacturers. People are angry that Republicans rake in millions from big banks and vote down the most watered down financial regulations. People are angry that Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia took millions from big banks before working with Republicans to neuter Dodd-Frank regulations.
The Democratic Party prides itself as the party of the people, the party of the regular American, the party of the working class. The modern Democratic Party, with neoliberals like Hillary Clinton, has unfortunately strayed from being that party all the time.
Despite many mainstream Democrats having strayed from being the party of the people, the movement to take back our politics, starting with the party is underway. Brought back into the national spotlight during Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, campaign finance issues have taken back their rightful place in the national conversation. In 2018, an unprecedented number of candidates and elected officials are rejecting corporate PAC money. While corporate PACs are not the only source of corrupt campaign funds, they represent a large portion of the money used by big business to affect politics.
Progressive Democrat Beto O’Rourke is running a highly competitive challenge to Republican Ted Cruz in deep red Texas while turning down any corporate PAC donations. His surge in Texas has drawn national attention and is inspiring progressives in Texas and around the country. In the Senate, several senators have joined Bernie Sanders in refusing corporate PAC contributions. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Maria Cantwell have all pledged to refuse corporate PAC money. After facing intense pressure for his ties to big pharma, even Cory Booker has pledged to refuse corporate PAC donations to his campaign. Whether these progressive senators stay true to their pledges and values remains to be seen. Many of the no corporate PAC money senators are also suspected to be planning to run for President in 2020.
Although they are covered less than Senate races, elections for the House of Representatives are just as important and the movement to reject corrupt corporate PAC money is running strong in Democratic House candidates as well. Young, progressive Democrats, often women of color such as Ayana Pressley in Massachusetts’ 7th district and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th district have won primaries against well established Democratic incumbents, running on progressive platforms which include the candidates’ refusal of corporate money. Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez are running in strongly Democratic districts and their chances of winning their elections are very high, however, even candidates challenging Republicans in tough districts are refusing corporate PAC money.
In California, every single Democratic challenger running in a Republican-held Congressional district is turning down corporate PAC donations. Many of these candidates are polling tied with or ahead of their Republican opponents, every one of which has coffers loaded with contributions from big oil, big pharma, insurance companies, the NRA, and every other major corporate interest.
Across the country, Democrats are running competitive campaigns without begging corporate executives for help. In Pennsylvania’s 18th district, Conor Lamb proved to the nation that small-dollar donations from real people can power a winning campaign, even in an extremely challenging Republican district. The truth is that corporate cash is more of a liability than an asset. Most voters realize that an elected official who takes money from big business will always be in some way compromised.
If Democrats are successful in taking back the House, Senate, or both this November, it will not only enable Democrats to put the breaks on the President’s harmful agenda. The surge of no corporate PAC money candidates will put new, progressive voices and votes in Congress, voices which are not censored by big donors’ wishes. If candidates are successful without corporate money, that will persuade more like-minded candidates to refuse corporate PAC contributions. If Democrats are successful without corporate PAC money, the hard work of wrestling power back into the hands of all the people can be boosted once again into its rightful place as the sole function of the Democratic Party. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
Candidates running without corporate PAC money need help from concerned citizens to run their campaigns.
There are way too many great candidates who are refusing to be corrupted by corporate PAC money for me to list here. I recommend checking out the Justice Democrats, a progressive group dedicated to getting money out of politics, to look for candidates who interest you. If you can, volunteer for or donate to a campaign you support. Most importantly, MAKE SURE YOU VOTE! Our democracy depends on it.
Here are just a few of my favorite progressive, no corporate PAC money candidates who could really use some help:
Beto O’Rourke-Progressive Democrat running for Senate in Texas challenging Ted Cruz.
Great Democrats challenging Republicans for Congress in Calfornia:
TJ Cox (CA-21)-Cental Valley
Josh Harder (CA-10)-Central Valley
Katie Porter (CA-45)-Orange County
Katie Hill (CA-25)-Los Angeles County
Harley Rouda (CA-48)-Orange County
Mike Levin (CA-49)-San Diego County
Ammar Campa-Najjar (CA-50)- San Diego County/Riverside County