Cicilline, Whitehouse declare they won’t accept PAC money

Providence Journal
Thursday, July 26, 2018

By Patrick Anderson Journal Staff Writer

End Citizens United stated Cicilline “is estimated to lose over $100,000 in campaign contributions from corporate PACs each campaign cycle.” The group did not estimate how much Whitehouse stands to give up.

Half of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation has promised to stop taking money from corporations as part of a broader effort among Democrats to reduce the influence of big-money donors in politics.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. David Cicilline are among more than a dozen federal lawmakers who say they will no longer take corporate PAC money, End Citizens United, a “grassroots” PAC opposed to loosening campaign finance restrictions, announced in a news release.

“Some time ago, I was asked at a community meeting why I accepted corporate PAC money,” Whitehouse wrote in a fundraising email explaining his decision not to accept corporate PAC money. “That question stuck in my mind. I told the young man who asked the question that I’d think about it, and I have. ... My heart tells me I should stop.”

Cicilline announced his decision to forgo corporate PAC money in a tweet earlier Wednesday: “Corporate spending has rigged our political system against working people. Today, I’m pledging that I will no longer accept corporate PAC money for my campaign.”

Cicilline, Whitehouse declare they won’t accept PAC money

In a press release, End Citizens United said Cicilline “is estimated to lose over $100,000 in campaign contributions from corporate PACs each campaign cycle.” The group did not estimate how much Whitehouse stands to give up.

Whitehouse’s presumptive Republican opponent in the November election, former state Supreme Court Judge Robert Flanders, described the decision to refuse PAC money now as hypocritical and said Whitehouse should return donations he’s collected while in office. In particular, he continued to hit Whitehouse over pharmaceutical industry donations in light of the opioid crisis.

“This is like the bank robber Willie Sutton finding religion,” Flanders stated in an email. “McKesson Corp., distributer of opioids, and other corporate interests have already gotten what they paid for, but Rhode Islanders are still paying the price. If Sen. Whitehouse is sincere, he needs to return all of his millions in PAC money, or better yet donate them to nonprofits advocating for term limits.”

The McKesson Corporation Employees Political Fund gave Whitehouse $5,000 last September, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

Flanders campaign spokesman Robert Ensign said Flanders has not taken any corporate PAC money in his Senate run.

How much has Whitehouse received in corporate money?

Last year, Whitehouse raised $159,971 from corporate PACS and so far this year has taken in $94,221, according to campaign spokesman Joe Caiazzo.

Cicilline spokesman Richard Lucchette said corporate PAC money is “a small percentage” of what the campaign takes in.

“I know that he’s given more money away to Democrats running this cycle than he’s taken from corporate PACs,” Lucchette said.

Neither Whitehouse nor Cicilline intend to return any corporate contributions, their respective campaigns said.

Caiazzo said Whitehouse has been refusing corporate money since July 1. Cicilline’s announcement was effective Wednesday.

As of June 30, Whitehouse had $3.4 million in his campaign account, compared to $383,698 for Flanders, according to FEC filings. Flanders has loaned his campaign $250,000 of the $868,200 he’s raised this election cycle.

The other senators who have agreed to refuse corporate money, according to End Citizens United, are Bernie Sanders, D-Vt.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Cory Booker D-N.J.; and Kamala Harris, D-Calif.


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