Bait, Switch ‘n Betrayal: Group ‘End Citizens United’ Called Out For Backing Democrats Fueled By Corporate Cash


By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (7/5/18)

At first glance, the prominent political action committee End Citizens United (ECU) appears to be dedicated to channeling widespread grassroots anger at corporate money in politics into promoting candidates who reject cash from big business and support bold campaign finance reform.

But a closer look at the candidates ECU endorses and funds reveals that the organization frequently uses its vast resources to reinforce the poisonous status quo.

In a detailed analysis of the ECU’s recent endorsements, fundraising efforts, and campaign spending, Donald Shaw of Sludge—an outlet that covers political corruption—found that the group deploys “a large part of their campaign contributions to re-elect corporate-financed Democratic incumbents.”

“Despite advocating for Democrats to reject corporate money, End Citizens United hasn’t prioritized contributing to incumbents who make such pledges,” Shaw writes. “A review of End Citizens United’s campaign contributions shows a group that funds to the mainstream of the Democratic congressional caucus and is particularly supportive of the the more conservative and corporate-friendly members of the party.”

An instructive example of ECU’s preference for business-friendly Democrats was its decision to back 10-term incumbent and Wall Street favorite Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) over democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who refused to take a dime of corporate money.

ECU—which was founded in 2015 by three former online fundraising specialists for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)—donated $5,000 to Crowley’s campaign, joining the more than 250 corporate PAC’s who gave to Crowley during the 2018 election cycle. The powerful House Democrat lost in a landslide to the 28-year-old progressive Ocasio-Cortez.

Additionally, Shaw notes, ECU “has helped to finance members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a conservative group of Democrats that prioritize working across the aisle with Republicans and often side with corporate interests on issues like financial deregulation, tax policy, and defense spending.”

High pressure fund raising

Since its inception, ECU has utilized aggressive fundraising tactics—renting email lists from media outlets like AlterNet and Mother Jones and sending up to seven fundraising pleas per day—to rake in millions in funds. Some of that money was then then given to corporate-friendly Democrats who are already flush with industry cash.

In an email to her group’s supporters on Tuesday, Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, national director of Move to Amend—a grassroots organization that works to combat corporate influence in politics—wrote that ECU’s tactics have harmed her organization’s fundraising and outreach efforts, as the two organizations are frequently believed to be the same group.

“Most of the time folks are frustrated about the onslaught, or confused about why we would suddenly back candidates instead of movement building, especially when those candidates are often not leaders in the movement to end Citizens United in Congress,” Sopoci-Belknap noted. “So who exactly is this group anyway? How are they actually working to ‘end’ Citizens United?”

Citing Sludge‘s reporting, Sopoci-Belknap wrote “actions speak louder than words” and concluded that ECU is an “opportunistic organization that is raising big money on the promise of ending Citizens United, but is actually doing very little to support the broader movement for democracy.”

Cory Archibald, a spokeswoman for the anti-corruption organization Brand New Congress, echoed Sopoci-Belknap’s assessment in an interview with Sludge, arguing that ECU “looks like an attractive option” on the surface but utterly fails to live up to its promises in practice.

“If their organization only supported candidates who firmly pledged no PAC money, their contributions could breathe much-needed life into grassroots campaigns,” Archibald concluded. “Instead it looks more like an intentional obfuscation.”

(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.)

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  • Report From Center For Responsive Government — ‘End Citizens United’ Spending By Cycle: Link to Story


The Anti-Big Money PAC Backing Corporate-Financed Democrats

By Donald Shaw
Sludge (7/3/18)

Following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary win last week, a political action committee aimed at ending “Big Money in politics” had a realization.

“Democrats should take the initial step of rejecting money from corporate PACs and removing the primary barrier to Americans trusting them,” End Citizens United said in a memo co-published with the Center for American Progress in the wake of the race results.

End Citizens United supported Ocasio-Cortez’s opponent, the powerful incumbent Democrat Rep. Joseph Crowley, despite his embrace of corporate funding. A Sludge analysis found that Crowley took $1.1 million from more than 250 corporate PACs this cycle. End Citizens United contributed $5,000 to Crowley’s campaign. Ocasio-Cortez, by contrast, rejected all corporate PAC money, but End Citizens United did not endorse her or contribute to her.

While Crowley’s defeat seems to have given the group inspiration on messaging, their memo does not say that they will withhold support for Democrats like Crowley who take most of their campaign funding from corporate PACs.

“If you’re a voter who wants to support candidates who fight against money in politics, on the surface, [End Citizens United] looks like an attractive option,” said Brand New Congress spokeswoman Cory Archibald. “Yet they are funneling these small-dollar contributions to candidates sitting on millions in corporate PAC money.” 

Asked by Sludge if they will stop endorsing and contributing to politicians who take money from corporate PACs, End Citizens United responded with a softer approach. “We encourage all of our endorsed candidates—and all Democrats—to reject corporate PAC money,” said Adam Bozzi, a spokesperson for the organization. “It’s both good policy and good politics.”

Founded in 2015 by three former digital fundraising specialists from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, End Citizens United takes its name from the landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission that gave corporations, nonprofits, and unions power to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. The group says on its website that its mission is “to end Big Money in politics and fix our rigged political system by electing campaign finance reform champions.”

Other groups active in the fight against Big Money and the Citizens United ruling, like those that make up the Move to Amend coalition, work at the grassroots level to pass resolutions in cities and states addressing issues like corporate personhood. Others, like Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, work to support a new generation of up-start politicians who pledge to reject all corporate PAC and lobbyist money during the campaign and, if elected, while serving in office.

End Citizens United taps into the same populist angst as these reform groups, and they have been wildly successful at using anti-corruption messaging to gain supporters and raise money. But they distinguish themselves by using a large part of their campaign contributions to re-elect corporate-financed Democratic incumbents. …

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  • Center For Responsive Government — Rep Ron Kind’s Top Corporate Contributors For 2018 Election Cycle: Link Here