“Politics, noun. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” – Ambrose Pierce
Rep. Gil Cisneros of California’s 39th Congressional District has railed against corporate money influencing Congress and has pledged not to accept campaign money from corporate PACs. This formed a core tenet of his successful 2018 campaign, winning as a Democrat in a formerly Republican congressional district in Orange County.
For Congressman Gil Cisneros and many of his fellow Democrats in Congress this is a winning message with the voters. The Pew Research Center recently released the results of a survey showing that over two-thirds of Americans would support new laws to limit corporate money in politics.
However, Congressman Cisneros has likely found himself in hot water for skirting the pledge, or at least the spirit of it, by accepting large contributions from well-connected, DC lobbyists. This is part of a larger, recent trend where Democrat lawmakers swear off corporate PAC money in public, only to accept contributions at private events from corporate lobbyists that work on behalf of large corporations.
As if the contributions were not enough, a recent Politico article highlights that these lobbyists are even hosting the fundraisers for these members, ostensibly filling the room with individual donors with close corporate ties.
So where once a member of congress accepting corporate PAC money would have the names of large, corporate PACs on their fundraising reports, now the public can only see the seemingly more innocuous Ogilvy Government Relations next to large contributions to the Cisneros campaign. This makes it even harder for the average voter to track what corporate interests are at play or who have influence over their representative.
Fortunately, for transparency’s sake, political contributions from individuals must include the occupation and employer of each donor. According to a transparency in political spending website, OpenSecrets, a motivated voter can see that the top industry Congressman Cisneros raised money from in 2018 was the Securities and Investment industries. Contributions for Congressman Cisneros from the Securities and Investment industry, as defined by OpenSecrets, can include contributions from Wall Street stalwarts like “stockbrokers, bond dealers, brokerage houses, hedge funds and private investment firms.”
The 39th Congressional District that Gil Cisneros represents is a highly competitive seat and is sure to attract its share of attention this Election Year. Congressman Cisneros’ fundraising from corporate interests policy is sure to be a major campaign issue.
What do you think? Is Congressman Cisneros’ acceptance of campaign contributions from lobbyists for major corporations basically the same thing as accepting the corporate PAC money? Is it better or worse?