Earlier today, the campaign of Democratic State Rep. Kelda Roys, who’s running to succeed Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the 2nd Congressional district, issued a press release outlining her belief that “any serious commitment to run a clean campaign must include a commitment to forego all corporate PAC contributions.”
“The voters of the 2nd District face an important choice in the months ahead. With five candidates in this race, voters must be able to make their decision based on a fair and thorough discussion of all the candidates’ records,“ said campaign manager Rick Coelho. “The voters of the 2nd District deserve to know that the judgment of their next representative will never be clouded by pursuit of a $5,000 corporate PAC check.”
At issue is $17,000 in campaign contributions from corporate PACs that the campaign of Democratic State Rep. Mark Pocan, one of Roys’ opponents, has accepted. Among the corporate PACs that have donated to Pocan’s campaign are PACs representing MillerCoors, United Parcel Service and CUNA Mutual.
Responding to the attacks leveled against him by the Roys campaign, Pocan was quick to fire back with a response, noting that while Roys has pledged not to take corporate PAC money, she has taken thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from high ranking executives (think CEOs & Presidents) of a number of companies, including Jack Salzwedel, the CEO of American Family Insurance. “So you don’t take corporate PAC money but do you take contributions from CEOs,” asked Pocan. “I just don’t think it’s a credible argument.”
Reached for additional clarification on how Roys reconciles her opposition to corporate PAC contributions to campaigns with her willingness to take campaign contributions from CEOs and other high-ranking corporate executives, Roys’ campaign manager Rick Coelho summed up his thoughts succinctly, saying, “Corporations are not people.” Coelho also noted that while Rep. Pocan has been a strong opponent of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), many of the corporate PACs that have donated to Pocan’s Congressional campaign are associated with companies that are or were board members of ALEC.
While I agree that corporations are not people and should not be able to contribute to political campaigns as if they are, I also believe that someone who wants to run a “clean campaign” should be a little more careful about accepting the donations of corporate CEOs and high-ranking executives, especially when those folks have made a habit of donating an awful lot of money to Republican candidates and elected officials, as is the case with Jack Salzwedel, who has donated nearly $4,000 to various Republican candidates in the past.
Oh, did I mention Salzwedel donated $2,000 to Republican Scott Walker in 2009 and 2010? Yep, it’s true!
While I’m in total agreement with the Roys campaign when it comes to corporate PACs making contributions to campaigns, I guess we diverge when it comes to whether or not it’s appropriate/acceptable for a progressive Democratic candidate for elected office to gladly accept campaign contributions from longtime (and big dollar) donors to Republican campaigns and candidates. Personally, I’d have a hard time supporting a progressive candidate that’s willing to accept campaign contributions from individuals who’ve made a habit of donating thousands of dollars over nearly 20 years to Republican campaigns and candidates, but maybe I’m just expecting too much from my progressive candidates.