As I noted last year, not taking Corporate PAC money, as a number of presidential contenders have vowed to do, is a gimmick. Corporate PACs are pretty limited in the amount of money they can give, and they are transparent. Having a ton of executives from a company raise hundreds of thousands of dollars or more is not better than having a PAC write a $5,000 check. In fact, it’s much worse.
But I think a lot of people on the activist left, particularly people who were too young to follow politics before 2016, do not realize that not only is this a gimmick, it’s an old gimmick.
When Obama ran in 2008, he rejected all PAC money (not just corporate PAC money). Yet we all know his record when he was in office — tilting towards Wall Street. One explanation you could offer for this is that the financial sector emptied out its wallets for Obama — but it did so outside the normal limits of PACs, which are quite constrained in what they can give.
A good example of this is New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker. He isn’t taking corporate PAC money. But he already has a Super PAC — where donors can basically give whatever they want, far beyond the limits of a normal PAC — being set up in his name. New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is fundraising with a Pfizer executive. Harris, another person embracing the gimmick, is fundraising with some real estate tycoons in Boston. But hey, the executives didn’t organize their money behind a PAC, so it’s different. Or is it really?