Despite no corporate money pledges, Democratic federal candidates keep taking it

Reprinted from New Mexico in Depth

While every Democrat running for federal office in New Mexico this year pledged to not accept money from corporate political action committees, they still benefit from corporate giving.

Funneled to their campaigns from intermediary PACs that gather corporate money and then redirect it to candidates for office, the donations shine a light on the complications Democrats face when attempting to distance themselves from corporate special interests while still raising enough money to run winning campaigns.

Since the landmark Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court ruling in 2010– which opened political campaigns to unrestricted outside spending in elections by corporations, nonprofits, unions, and other organizations—a movement to enact reforms that would limit corporate influence in elections has grown, and found a home within the Democratic Party.

One group, called End Citizens United, encourages candidates to pledge not to accept donations from corporate PACs. Federal rules already prohibit candidates from taking donations from corporations directly.

In New Mexico, Democratic Reps. Xochitl Torres Small in the southern 2nd congressional district, Deb Haaland in the Albuquerque metro area’s 1st district, and Democratic hopeful Teresa Fernandez Leger in the northern 3rd district, have all taken the pledge. Also forgoing corporate PAC donations is Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who is giving up his seat in the House to run for the U.S. Senate.

But despite the pledges, hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations are flowing into their campaign coffers through other types of PACs that raise corporate money. Some belong to their colleagues in the U.S. House or Senate, referred to as leadership PACs. Others are trade association PACs, some of which represent small businesses and professionals while others represent industries dominated by big corporations.

“Democrats criticize corporate political activity and often promise not to take donations from corporations. But that is where leadership PACs come in handy,” said Michael Rocca, professor of political science at the University of New Mexico. “Candidates can take the popular position against corporate money and against Citizens United, but then enjoy the benefit of generous corporate donations.”

Leadership PACs

For decades, the Federal Election Commission has allowed current and former members of Congress to maintain PACs separate from their official campaign committees, often for the purpose of helping their colleagues. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the lawmakers behind these so-called leadership PACs typically have two primary goals: currying influence with other members of Congress through donations, and covering expenses that can’t be footed by their campaigns or congressional offices.

According to Issue One, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce the role of money in politics, over 85% of members of Congress maintain a leadership PAC.

“In most cases, the corporation, labor union or trade association is giving to one lawmaker and then that lawmaker gets to call the shots about where that money goes,” said Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One.

With significantly higher contribution limits– they’re able to give $5,000 per candidate versus $2,800 from individuals–leadership and other PACs act as significant conduits for money, and the influence that comes with it.

“[Members of Congress] have a lot to gain from raising this money for their party,” said Rocca. “They can use the money to ask for something in return from more junior colleagues, like their loyalty.”

In New Mexico, federal officeholders are Democrats, and several maintain leadership PACs.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has long been a major fundraiser, chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a fundraising organization for House Democrats, from 2014 until the party won its current majority in 2018. This year, he’s leaving the House in a bid to replace Sen. Tom Udall, who’s retiring. He took the End Citizens United pledge in May 2019 to not accept corporate PAC money, and his Turquoise PAC in 2020 is largely dominated by trade associations funds. But in the months prior to his pledge, he raked in about $150,000 in corporate PAC money which he did not return.

Sen. Tom Udall’s Southwest Leadership Fund continues to accept corporate donations, although in 2020 his PAC is smaller than years past, signaling his retirement. Most funds in Rep. Deb Haaland’s Fierce PAC originate from tribes.

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small does not have a leadership PAC. Torres Small is defending her seat in southern New Mexico, largely considered a tossup by political analysts. While she’s taken the End Citizen United pledge, she’s still benefited from over $313,000 in donations from leadership PACs as well as campaign accounts from colleagues, many of which have accepted corporate PAC donations. She’s also received over $52,000 from corporate-aligned trade associations. Individual donations currently make up 69% of Torres Small’s contributions.

Then there’s Sen. Martin Heinrich, not up for re-election this year, whose Lobo PAC is a significant conduit this year for corporate PAC money to other candidates.

Lobo PAC has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in PAC donations from Comcast, Google, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and others. According to an analysis by New Mexico in Depth, Lobo PAC received 52% of its funding in the last two years from corporations.

DISCLAIMER: RepresentUs New Mexico (RUNM) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish our goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of RUNM’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of RUNM.

This Is the Future That Liberals Want: Say the Democrats win. Then what?

reprinted from The Atlantic, SEPTEMBER 17, 2020

By Elaine Godfrey

If democrats manage to hold the House of Representatives and win back the Senate and the White House in November, the party will have full control of the federal government for the first time in 11 years. Police reform, climate change, and health care are all on their agenda. But before newly empowered Democrats get to any of that, they will very likely pass a relief package to address the coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic crisis. Then, they will aim to fundamentally change how voting and government work in the United States by expanding voting rights, reducing the influence of money in politics, strengthening ethics rules, and maybe even ending the Senate filibuster—reforms they hope will make America’s democracy work better and the rest of their agenda easier to carry out.

“If there is any political capital to be spent, the concerns over democracy reform take a front seat to everything in the agenda,” a senior aide to a progressive senator told me (the aide requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the record). It “would mean so much just in terms of building long-term power,” a senior aide to a progressive House Democrat added.

By starting with these reforms, Democrats are taking a risk: They’ll likely have only a short window of time in the majority to accomplish their most pressing agenda items. Prioritizing one item could mean sacrificing another—and failing to deliver on key issues.

But the Democratic lawmakers, staffers, and activists that I spoke with view government and voting reform as a kind of precursor to accomplishing any of their other policy goals. “The first attention will be to the economic implosion, but there are a group of [other] issues on people’s minds,” Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon told me. “We are at that moment where we have to succeed now in restoring the integrity of the American vision.” Democrats have given these process changes, which they call “democracy reform,” top billing on their legislative docket before.

The For the People Act, more commonly known as H.R. 1, was the first piece of legislation the Democratic-controlled House passed in 2019. It contained a grab bag of reforms: establishing automatic voter registration for all Americans, making Election Day a national holiday, ending partisan gerrymandering, requiring presidents to disclose their tax returns, and creating a public-financing system for federal campaigns. These reforms would make it easier for most Americans to vote. They’d also, Democrats hope, make it easier for Democrats to win elections

.READ MORE.

DISCLAIMER: RepresentUs New Mexico (RUNM) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish our goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of RUNM’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of RUNM.

Despite no corporate money pledges, Democratic federal candidates keep taking it

Reprinted from New Mexico in Depth 

July 30, 2020

By Brian Metzger

 While every Democrat running for federal office in New Mexico this year pledged to not accept money from corporate political action committees, they still benefit from corporate giving.

Funneled to their campaigns from intermediary PACs that gather corporate money and then redirect it to candidates for office, the donations shine a light on the complications Democrats face when attempting to distance themselves from corporate special interests while still raising enough money to run winning campaigns.

Since the landmark Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court ruling in 2010– which opened political campaigns to unrestricted outside spending in elections by corporations, nonprofits, unions, and other organizations—a movement to enact reforms that would limit corporate influence in elections has grown, and found a home within the Democratic Party.

One group, called End Citizens United, encourages candidates to pledge not to accept donations from corporate PACs. Federal rules already prohibit candidates from taking donations from corporations directly.

In New Mexico, Democratic Reps. Xochitl Torres Small in the southern 2nd congressional district, Deb Haaland in the Albuquerque metro area’s 1st district, and Democratic hopeful Teresa Fernandez Leger in the northern 3rd district, have all taken the pledge. Also forgoing corporate PAC donations is Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who is giving up his seat in the House to run for the U.S. Senate.

But despite the pledges, hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations are flowing into their campaign coffers through other types of PACs that raise corporate money. Some belong to their colleagues in the U.S. House or Senate, referred to as leadership PACs. Others are trade association PACs, some of which represent small businesses and professionals while others represent industries dominated by big corporations.

“Democrats criticize corporate political activity and often promise not to take donations from corporations. But that is where leadership PACs come in handy,” said Michael Rocca, professor of political science at the University of New Mexico. “Candidates can take the popular position against corporate money and against Citizens United, but then enjoy the benefit of generous corporate donations.”

Leadership PACs

For decades, the Federal Election Commission has allowed current and former members of Congress to maintain PACs separate from their official campaign committees, often for the purpose of helping their colleagues. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the lawmakers behind these so-called leadership PACs typically have two primary goals: currying influence with other members of Congress through donations, and covering expenses that can’t be footed by their campaigns or congressional offices.

According to Issue One, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce the role of money in politics, over 85% of members of Congress maintain a leadership PAC.

“In most cases, the corporation, labor union or trade association is giving to one lawmaker and then that lawmaker gets to call the shots about where that money goes,” said Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One.

With significantly higher contribution limits– they’re able to give $5,000 per candidate versus $2,800 from individuals–leadership and other PACs act as significant conduits for money, and the influence that comes with it.

“[Members of Congress] have a lot to gain from raising this money for their party,” said Rocca. “They can use the money to ask for something in return from more junior colleagues, like their loyalty.”

In New Mexico, federal officeholders are Democrats, and several maintain leadership PACs.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has long been a major fundraiser, chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a fundraising organization for House Democrats, from 2014 until the party won its current majority in 2018. This year, he’s leaving the House in a bid to replace Sen. Tom Udall, who’s retiring. He took the End Citizens United pledge in May 2019 to not accept corporate PAC money, and his Turquoise PAC in 2020 is largely dominated by trade associations funds. But in the months prior to his pledge, he raked in about $150,000 in corporate PAC money which he did not return.

Sen. Tom Udall’s Southwest Leadership Fund continues to accept corporate donations, although in 2020 his PAC is smaller than years past, signaling his retirement. Most funds in Rep. Deb Haaland’s Fierce PAC originate from tribes.

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small does not have a leadership PAC. Torres Small is defending her seat in southern New Mexico, largely considered a tossup by political analysts. While she’s taken the End Citizen United pledge, she’s still benefited from over $313,000 in donations from leadership PACs as well as campaign accounts from colleagues, many of which have accepted corporate PAC donations. She’s also received over $52,000 from corporate-aligned trade associations. Individual donations currently make up 69% of Torres Small’s contributions.

Then there’s Sen. Martin Heinrich, not up for re-election this year, whose Lobo PAC is a significant conduit this year for corporate PAC money to other candidates.

Lobo PAC has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in PAC donations from Comcast, Google, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and others. According to an analysis by New Mexico in Depth, Lobo PAC received 52% of its funding in the last two years from corporations.

A candidate who accepts money from a leadership PAC isn’t violating their pledge to not accept corporate donations, Patrick Burgwinkle, communications director for End Citizens United said.

That’s because the problem of corporate money has more to do with the influence and access gained with the person the money is actually given too. In the case of leadership PACs, that person is the owner of the PAC, not the candidates to which the PAC then redistributes the money.

“Leadership PACs give money to help elect more Democrats or Republicans to Congress and the decision on who to donate to resides solely with the member of Congress affiliated with the leadership PAC, not corporate lobbyists,” said Burgwinkle.

In the case of Lobo PAC, Heinrich has sole control over how the funds raised by the PAC are spent, confirmed Juan Sanchez, Heinrich’s state political director.

While Heinrich hasn’t pledged to reject corporate PAC money, he’s still earned End Citizens United’s endorsement through support of campaign finance reforms the group advocates, Sanchez said.

To date, Lobo PAC has contributed $10,000 apiece to the campaigns of Reps. Deb Haaland, Xochitl Torres Small, and Ben Ray Lujan, and a smaller amount to Teresa Leger Fernandez, the Democratic candidate for Lujan’s vacated House seat in northern New Mexico.

While corporate funded Leadership PACs are pervasive, not all are alike. Some rely on “ideologically-driven small dollar donors” instead of corporations, said Beckel.

“Someone like AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] is going to be raising money for a leadership PAC in a different way than a powerful committee chairman who’s been in Congress for decades,” he said.

Ocasio Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC has raised roughly $560,000, none of which came from corporate PACs. Teresa Leger Fernandez accepted $5,000 from Courage to Change during the recently-concluded primary.

Last year, Roll Call reported that corporate PACs may be donating more to party committees and leadership PACs as growing numbers of candidates refuse to take these donations directly.

But Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said there are other funding patterns that may warrant even more scrutiny.

“Business PAC contributions to leadership PACs have accelerated, but non-business PAC giving to leadership PACs has accelerated even faster,” Krumholz said.

Krumholz added that while PACs may be an important mechanism for corporate interests to spend money, it’s important to look at wider donation patterns, such as where high-ranking employees and executives may be giving.

“If a PAC can give $10,000 to a candidate, individual partners, executives, and vice presidents can pass that and raise tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single candidate,” said Krumholz. “Bottom line, there are lots of options available.”

Krumholz said corporations give funds not because of altruism but because they’re seeking to return a profit to their shareholders.

“The best way to do that is not to engage in electioneering,” she said, “but to give to the people who have the ability to help them now.”

One other avenue for corporate funds to make their way into campaign accounts is through trade associations. There are many of them, representing a wide range of industries, from small business sectors, community banks, to larger corporations.

One New Mexico Democratic lawmaker said donations from trade associations aren’t in the same category as corporate money.

“Our campaign has taken the End Citizens United pledge, we’ve been endorsed by them, and we don’t take corporate PAC money,” Haaland said in a statement. “Trade associations represent millions of hard-working Americans such as small businesses owners and farmers and we are proud to have their support.”

While that may be true of some of the trade associations that have donated to Haaland– including the National Association of Realtors PAC, which gave her $3000 last year– it is not true across the board.

Haaland has also accepted contributions from more corporate-aligned trade associations, including $1,000 apiece from the National Association of Broadcasters and the American Wind Energy Association.

And Haaland is not alone. Lujan has accepted $10,000 from the American Cable Association, while Torres Small has accepted $1,000 apiece from the American Bankers Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Because trade associations are widely varied in terms of the interests they represent, End Citizens United doesn’t encourage candidates to disavow donations from such groups as strongly as with corporate PACs. Statistics provided by End Citizens United indicate that corporate PACs comprised about 40% of all PAC contributions to candidates in 2018, versus just 19% from trade associations, not all of which represent large corporations.


The following charts show the various types of PACs that have contributed to the 2020 Democratic candidates for federal office in New Mexico. Only Ben Ray Lujan, who vacated his congressional House seat to run for the Senate, has received corporate PAC money. He accepted the funds before taking the End Citizens United pledge to not accept corporate PAC money. Most of the candidates have received leadership PAC funding, which is often fueled by corporate PACs. Teresa Leger Fernandez was still one among several primary candidates when these numbers were reported, in mid-May. At that time she did not have leadership PAC money

 

DISCLAIMER: RepresentUs New Mexico (RUNM) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish our goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of RUNM’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of RUNM.

FACT CHECKER: We tackled all of Trump’s vote-by-mail falsehoods

Reprinted from  The Washington Post  

September 11 , 2020

by Salvador Rizzo

More than 100 times this year, President Trump has peddled false claims or imaginary threats about voting by mail.

As states prepare for the Nov. 3 general election, with some expanding vote-by-mail to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at the polls, Trump is falsely accusing election officials of trying to rig the outcome. The president also has encouraged people to vote twice, which is illegal.

A mountain of evidence shows that mail voting has been almost entirely free of fraud through the decades, but Trump insists that it’s a recipe for disaster. For example, Trump claimed on Twitter that “mail-In Ballots will lead to massive electoral fraud and a rigged 2020 Election. Look at all of the cases and examples that are out there right now.”

The rate of double voting, or impersonating another voter, is so low researchers describe it as insignificant, a statistical blip. A Washington Post analysis of data collected by three vote-by-mail states found 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent. Other studies and databases show similar, vanishingly low rates.

We fact-checked 23 of the most frequent or outlandish claims on mail voting from Trump and his allies, including Attorney General William Barr. All of them got Four Pinocchios.

For the full fact check, go here.

DISCLAIMER: RepresentUs New Mexico (RUNM) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish our goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of RUNM’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of RUNM.

 

Santa Fe Save the Post Office Rally a Big Success

There were over 1,000 rallies held nationwide on Saturday, August 22, 2020, as people gathered peacefully to show support for the United States Postal Service. Public outrage has grown about revelations about how the new postmaster general’s decisions have slowed down the mail. The American people are frustrated that yet one more stalemate in the U.S. Senate is blocking funding to the post office it desperately needs to be able to fulfill its duties around election time.

In Santa Fe, around 50 people carrying signs gathered in front of the main post office located at 120 S. Federal Place (see photos above) and there were around 25 to 30 protestors also at the 120 S. Pacheco Street location.

Several national organizations including MoveOn and our Declaration for American Democracy coalition partner, People’s Action, had called for people across the country to get out and show their support. Here, in Santa Fe, citizen Roxanne Darling answered MoveOn’s call and RUNM and Indivisible Santa Fe joined her in getting out the word and bringing people together.

The events across the country brought national attention to the harm that was being caused by delivery slowdowns for thousands of Americans and the looming threat to the right to vote of persons who will choose to vote by mail or vote absentee during the current Covid-19 pandemic. How about a shout out to those who turned out on that day!

 

John House