Elizabeth Warren Wants To Stop Corporate PACs From Donating To Candidates

The Democratic candidate’s stance on getting big money out of politics is getting more aggressive.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren began her campaign with a challenge to the other Democratic presidential candidates: No super PACs, and no self-funding. 

Now, as she firmly ensconces herself in the top tier of 2020 candidates, she’s issuing another challenge: Every other Democratic presidential candidate should reveal the names of any donor or fundraiser who has a title with the campaign, and should report the date, location and host committee of any event they hold to raise funds. She also proposes making such disclosure mandatory if she becomes president.

“If Democratic candidates for president want to spend their time hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, it is currently legal for them to do so ― but they shouldn’t be handing out secret titles and honors to rich donors,” Warren wrote in a Medium post Tuesday announcing her new campaign finance policy. “Voters have a right to know who is buying access and recognition ― and how much it costs.”

Warren has long made the corrupting influence of money in politics a signature issue. Her new proposal is meant to serve as both a contrast with top rival Joe Biden, who has relied on ties to wealthy donors to fund his campaign war chest, and as preparation for the general election, where Warren hopes to showcase her support for good government measures against President Donald Trump’s corruption. It’s also another signal Warren’s top priority as president would be changing Washington’s internal rules in ways that make progressive successes more likely. 

“Our democracy shouldn’t be bought and paid for by the wealthy and powerful. It belongs to all of us. When we use our voices and our votes, we can make real change ― big, structural change,” Warren wrote on Medium. “That’s why getting big money out of politics and addressing corruption in Washington are so important. These reforms make it possible to do everything else we need to do ― from addressing climate change to forgiving student loans.”

Warren is also proposing a sharp limits on corporate PACs, making it more difficult to set up super PACs dedicated to a single candidate, banning lobbyists from donating to or fundraising for any candidate, significantly reforming the Federal Election Commission, lowering the maximum donation to a federal candidate or committee, and establishing a publicly financed matching program for small donations. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is getting more aggressive in her calls to rid the 2020 presidential campaign of big-mone
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is getting more aggressive in her calls to rid the 2020 presidential campaign of big-money influence.

Warren promised not to take donations of more than $200 from executives at “big tech companies, big banks, private equity firms, or hedge funds,” and to turn down corporate donations to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee next summer. Last week, she announced she wouldn’t hold any fundraisers for her campaign during the general election, but would attend fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee, state Democratic parties and other candidates.

The chances of Biden and other candidates who use big-money fundraisers to pad their campaign coffers complying with Warren’s challenge to reveal extensive details about their donors and fundraisers are essentially zero ― although the details of many fundraisers leak to the press regardless, and Biden has allowed journalists to cover his fundraisers. But the Warren campaign may view the challenge as a potential way to set herself apart from Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg or other candidates if the race turns ugly. 

Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the third-leading candidate in the Democratic race, both rely nearly exclusively on small-dollar online fundraising, and have not held high-dollar fundraisers during the campaign.

Beyond her own personal pledges, Warren also wants to sharply limit corporate PACs. Many Democrats in recent years have pledged to not take money from corporate PACs, which are created by companies to bundle donations from executives and funnel them to politicians. Warren would make corporate PAC donations to candidates illegal. 

She’s also proposing making it illegal to consider campaign contributions when appointing ambassadors. Politicians in both parties have used plum diplomatic gigs as a way to reward major campaign donors. And she’ll close a loophole that has allowed some foreign companies to influence American elections.

She also wants to make it much harder to run a super PAC backing a single candidate. Often, these super PACs are run by operatives who are longtime allies of a politician, and are able to anticipate the candidate’s plan and use the candidate’s authority when courting voters. Warren would bar anyone with a “political, personal, professional, or family relationship” with a candidate from running a super PAC backing them. 

Warren would also lower the maximum contribution to a candidate from $2,800 to $1,000, and limit donations to political parties ― which right now can reach into the hundreds of thousands ― to $10,000. At the same time, she would use “penalties coming from corporate malfeasance and major tax crimes” to fund a program that would provide a 6-to-1 match of any donation under $200.

“Lowering contribution limits, combined with 6-1 matching funds for small dollar contributions, will shift incentives for candidates: it will make it less valuable to spend time raising money from big dollar donors and more valuable to spend time with ordinary voters,” Warren wrote.

And Warren is proposing changing the structure of the Federal Election Commission, which has been gridlocked in recent years. Instead of a six-person board of three Democrats and three Republicans, she would create a board of two Democrats, two Republicans and a lone independent, making tie votes far less likely. She’s also proposing increasing the FEC’s funding for investigations, and giving it more power to impose fines.

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