Democrats Finally Disavow Corporate PAC Funding

illustration by Lisa Lake

Hillary Clinton’s spectacular failure to win the USA presidency in 2016 after spending a total of $1.2 billion, roughly double that spent by opponent Donald Trump, has finally convinced many Democrats that being in bed with Wall Street just might be a losing tactic. By eschewing funds from Political Action Committees (PACs) and famously receiving donations of just $27, on average, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders showed in his 2016 run for president that successful campaigns at the national level need not and in fact must not rely on corporate money.

Many of the same Democrats who are now eyeing to oust Trump in 2020 solicited campaign funds from from large corporations and wealthy individuals for decades, but now suddenly claim to be independent of special interests. For six prominent Democratic Senators considered contenders to run for President in 2020 who now loudly disavow corporate PAC funding, such PACs only comprised a sliver of their campaign budgets anyway, as most rely heavily on donations from wealthy individuals.

From left to right: Democrat Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren.

Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Maria Cantwell, and Bernie Sanders all refuse campaign donations from corporate PACs. But the commitment is mostly symbolic since Booker, who relied most heavily on PACs before pulling the plug on them in February, only drew 10 percent of campaign funds from this source, according to OpenSecrets.org. Cantwell, Warren, and Sanders each raise less than 2 percent from PACs of any kind.

Harris, Booker, Gillibrand, and Cantwell get most of their campaign funds from large donations, defined as those of between $200 and $2,700, the maximum for individual donations. These Senators get between 62 and 74 percent of their funds from large donations. Only the Senate campaigns of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have been mostly funded by small donations.