Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) affirmed his support for taxpayer-funded congressional campaigns last week, voting to kill a republican budget amendment that sought to keep taxpayer dollars out of the hands of political campaigns. The move invited allegations that Rep. Gil Cisneros and other incumbent Democrats were seeking to solidify their incumbent advantage and use tax dollars to fund reelection campaigns.
The provision at issue was a rule within the democrat-flagship resolution HR1 which would have allowed for qualifying “small dollar democracy” donations to be matched by 600% by the US treasury in congressional elections. The rule, which democrats billed as an effort to decrease the importance of big money in elections, was actually a fairly naked attempt to widen their fundraising advantage on the billion-dollar ACTBLUE fundraising platform.
Republicans sought to pass an amendment to the budget that read in its entirety, “No Federal funds may be used to make any payment in support of a campaign for election for the office of Senator or Representative in…” Democrats prevented the language from being considered with a procedural vote along party lines.
Taxpayer subsidized campaigns is but one of many controversial provisions of HR1, which also includes efforts to repeal certain political speech protections for organizations, shift control of elections from local to national, and ban voter ID laws. Opponents describe it as “anti-free speech” and a “political power grab”.
For Rep. Gil Cisneros this latest vote cannot help but be seen through the lens of his own personal finances and his fundraising troubles thus far in his 2020 re-election bid.
In early 2010, Gil Cisneros was recently unemployed and purchased a Mega Millions lottery ticket along with some BBQ chicken at a local restaurant. The next day Cisneros found out he was the lucky winner of $266 million.
This proved to be a life changing moment for Cisneros, who no longer had to worry about being unemployed or about his future financial prospects. Cisneros would undergo a further transformation by undergoing gastric bypass surgery, purchasing multiple homes and ultimately announcing a run for Congress.
After a bitter Primary, in which Cisneros was accused of offering political favors in return for sexual favors, Cisneros became the Democratic candidate in Congressional District 39 in the 2018 election.
During the campaign, Cisneros aggressively attacked his Republican opponent for not joining him in a pledge to refuse corporate PAC money for his campaign, a source of funds he obviously did not need as he was able to write a personal checks to his campaign that totaled over $9 million!
I refuse to take PAC or special interest money & support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Money is corrosive to our democracy and real campaign finance reform is needed now! #CA39 #DNOCForum pic.twitter.com/lQnv5CX4BL
— Gil Cisneros (@GilCisnerosCA) January 11, 2018
Cisneros spoke many times about the corrosive nature of corporate money in politics but upon arriving in Washington, was caught taking money from corporate lobbyists in an effort to get around the pledge.
With sources of clean money dwindling, Cisneros and House Democrats latest attempt to use taxpayer money to fund reelection campaigns smacks of desperation as local opinion starts to turn on Democrats that campaign as moderates in 2018 but have joined and defended the more controversial members of their party.
Taxpayer funded campaigns is likely dead on arrival in the Republican Senate but with recent polls showing Cisneros behind a Republican opponent he faces an uphill battle in the face of repeated scandals.
Will Cisneros be able to write himself another $9 million check or will he fall deeper and deeper into the clutches of the money that he called “corrosive to our democracy”?