From left: Theresa Greenfield and Cindy Axne

Both Theresa Greenfield, the favorite to win the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race and U.S. Rep Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, speak out about PAC money. At the same time, both candidates accept campaign contributions from PACs, and both will likely benefit from spending by “dark money” groups in their races. 

Greenfield, at a meet and greet in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Friday, February 7, 2020, emphasized her opposition to Citizens United and corporate PAC money.

“And I intend to take this fight to every single county, every single precinct across the state to defeat Joni Ernst this fall and bring back this United States Senate seat to Iowa for someone who’s going to put Iowa first, not special interests. You know, Joni Ernst has taken over $1.7 million from special interest groups, corporate lobbyists, excuse me, corporate paths. I’ll tell you what, when you’re beholden to those kinds of special issues, you’re not putting Iowa first. And I take a pledge not to accept any corporate PAC donations, and End Citizens United has endorsed this campaign,” she said.

Greenfield was asked a question about campaign finance later during the event. 

“It’s why I have taken a plan to not to accept any corporate PAC donations as part of my campaign. Look, I’ve worked in small business all my life, I understand business and appreciate, hey, we’re a state of small towns and small businesses. But I’ll tell you what, that kind of influence which is different than your influence, you know, you as an individual, the maximum you can donate is $5600. That’s a pretty good chunk of change for sure. But corporations and wealthy individuals can put unlimited amounts into these dark money groups. And that’s just wrong,” she responded.

Watch Greenfield’s meet and greet:

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, also recently complained about PAC money and Citizens United during a “connect with your Congresswoman” event at a coffee shop in the Beaverdale neighborhood of Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday.

She responded to a question about the influence of “Big Pharma” spending on marketing while they receive federal subsidies for research and development. 

“You know, unfortunately, in this country, Big Pharma has had way too much opportunity to get in and disrupt the system. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t take corporate PAC money because I don’t think that we should be beholden to organizations like Big Pharma. And unfortunately, we’ve got folks on both sides who, who do take that money and to sometimes don’t put our needs ahead of their reelection,” Anxe said.

She was then asked about Citizens United by another constituent. 

“It’s the dark money that’s involved in politics is absolutely – it’s terrible. Do I believe that we can root out corruption with that? Absolutely. There’s a lot of things – processes that have been able to folks to take advantage of them throughout the years because we haven’t looked at how structures are set up within some of the ways that we’re getting things done in the halls of Congress. So yeah, I think we can, will it take care of everything? No, because we do need to get rid of citizens united, we need to end Citizens United. Absolutely. But you know, until that time comes, we’re going to do everything we possibly can. We wrote H.R. 1, our first bill out of the house last year, exactly, to address the integrity of our elections, to give every voter a voice to address gerrymandering in this country and to take this big money out of politics. I’d ask you to go back and look at that. It’s we felt that our most important thing to do as new congressional members was to set the stage for a congress that people could trust and a congress that would hold itself accountable,” Axne said.

Watch her full discussion with constituents. 

H.R. 1, the For The People Act, that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives almost a year ago, includes a provision that matches small private campaign donations with public funds by a six to one ratio. So a $200 donation attracts $1200 in public funds and is worth $1400. Under the bill, candidates who raise enough small donations to qualify can opt-in the program included in the legislation.

The bill also makes it a crime within 60 days of an election to provide false information to voters with the intent to mislead them or prevent them from voting. H.R. 1 makes that crime punishable for up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $100,000, or both. 

H.R. 1 also imposed new limits on the political spending of companies with at least a 5 percent foreign government owner or companies who have foreign nationals own at least 20 percent of the company. 

The transparency requirements under the bill are also onerous. 

Mark Hemingway last year wrote, “one of the biggest concerns about the legislation is barely being discussed. HR1 requires so much disclosure of funding sources that, critics say, far from rendering politicians accountable and transparent, it creates a privacy nightmare for ordinary citizens who give to nonprofit organizations.”

“In order to allegedly enlighten voters, HR1 requires these nonprofits to reveal their top five donors of $10,000 or more in TV/video political communications (only the top two would be required for radio or audio-only ads). Already required disclaimers for political advertising cut into the time allotted for messaging, and HR1 also includes other burdensome requirements, such as requiring the CEO of the organization to be personally identified in political communications,” he added.

The Institute For Free Speech also blasted the bill in their analysis.

Iowa’s Democratic U.S. Reps. Abby Finkenauer and Dave Loebsack joined Axne voting for that bill. 

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision almost 11 years ago allowed 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, 501(c)(5) unions, and 501(c)(6) trade associations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections and they do not have to disclose their donors, which is why these are called “dark money” groups.

What’s fascinating is that Democrats never complain about progressive PACs or unions who also benefit from Citizens United, but only focus on corporate PACs.

The irony is both Greenfield and Axne receive lots of cash from “dark money” groups.

Greenfield, in 2019, accepted $356,012 in PAC contributions making up slightly over 10 percent of her total contributions. While that is less than what U.S. Senator Joni Ernst raised, Greenfield, not Ernst, is the one complaining about “dark money.”

Of Greenfield’s PAC donations, only $5000 could be attributed to a business-related PAC, while $62,500 came from labor interests and $291,012 from progressive groups.

Her largest donor was the abortion-advocacy group EMILY’s List, which donated $85,940. Ironically, End Citizens United gave Greenfield $17,500.

So far, there has been over $29,000 spent by outside “dark money” groups in Iowa’s U.S. Senate campaign opposed to Ernst, expect that increase dramatically as we get closer to November.

Axne received $555,267 in PAC contributions making up over 26 percent of her total donations received in 2019. 

She rails against corporate PACs, but received twice the amount of business-related PAC money than her likely challenger, David Young, did in 2019 – $141,750 compared to Young’s $70,100. Axne also received $107,500 from labor union-connected and labor advocacy PACs and $281,000 from progressive PACs.

Her most significant donor, like Greenfield, is EMILY’s List, who donated $50,982 in 2019, followed by Democracy Engine at $27,200 and JStreetPAC at $26,178. She also received a $10,000 donation from End Citizens United.

So being beholden to corporate interests is terrible, but being beholden to labor unions and the abortion lobby is ok. 

Understood. Look, I don’t care if these candidates take PAC money or not, stop with the hypocrisy. I can respect candidates who rail against “dark money” and reject it. The opposite, I don’t. 

Their philosophy is “dark money” for me, but not for thee.

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