Due to the avalanche of dark money that now flows unabated into political candidates’ coffers, such candidates have an unfair advantage over those who prefer not to align themselves with big money and corporations. ECU seeks to level the playing field by raising funds through grassroots efforts and using these funds to support the election of pro-reform candidates.
During the few years that it has existed, ECU has emerged as a powerful player in American politics. Candidates who are endorsed by ECU enjoy many advantages. They are connected with grassroots ECU members in their states and districts as well as with a national network of more than 400,000 small-dollar donors. With an average donation of just $14, the organization expects to raise upwards of $35 million for the 2018 election cycle.
Top ECU Endorsements for the 2018 Midterm Elections
Anyone who is concerned about the powerful influence of dark money on American politics should throw their support behind ECU and its efforts. The organization has endorsed dozens of incumbents and hopes to help them retain their respective seats in 2018. ECU has also endorsed a handful of candidates who will be actively challenging Republican incumbents in many crucial districts. Some highlights include the following:
- Beto O’Rourke– As one of only six House members to refuse contributions from PACs, Beto O’Rourke is a definite standout in the world of campaign finance reform. After representing Texas’s 16th Congressional District for nearly six years, O’Rourke is ready to unseat Senator Ted Cruz, who has long been owned by big money and special interests. In stark contrast to Cruz, O’Rourke supports legislation to reduce the power of big money; for example, he voted in favor of the Democracy for All amendment that would overturn Citizens United vs. FEC. The candidate holds the distinction of being the first challenger to be endorsed by ECU.
- Randy Bryce– Up until mid-April, Randy Bryce was seeking to do the impossible: unseat Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House and longtime senator of Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. However, Ryan recently announced that he would not be seeking reelection and would be retiring to spend more time with his family. Bryce, an Army veteran and former union ironworker, still has his work cut out for him and is sure to benefit enormously from the ECU’s support. He will undoubtedly face a formidable opponent in November, but his campaign had already outraised Ryan’s by $1.75 million during the first quarter of 2018—and he relies on small-dollar donors who typically donate around $25 each.
- Jacky Rosen– Elected as U.S. Representative for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District in 2016, Jacky Rosen is hoping to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the midterm election. Since being elected to office, Rosen helped to cosponsor the DISCLOSE Act of 2017, which sought to increase transparency in political spending. She also co-sponsored the Democracy for All Amendment, which sought to overturn Citizens United vs. FEC. Rosen is running against incumbent Dean Heller, a senator with a long track record of being bought and paid for by special interests. In fact, Heller voted against the DISCLOSE Act three times. During the last election cycle, around $8 million of the $87 million raised for the state senate raise came from dark money, and Rosen hopes that her election will prompt much-needed changes.
- Elissa Slotkin– A former CIA agent, Elissa Slotkin is vying for Michigan’s 8th Congressional District seat, which is currently held by Representative Mike Bishop. Bishop holds the not-so-great distinction of being listed on ECU’s Big Money 20 due to his long-running track record for supporting big money and special interests. Representative Bishop voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and he has voted against campaign finance reform bills time and time again. Because he is the incumbent, Slotkin faces an uphill battle. With support from End Citizens United, however, it is hoped that she will emerge victorious.
- Brendan Kelly– As State’s Attorney for Illinois’s St. Clair County, Brendan Kelly developed a track record for fighting back against corporations and special interests. In particular, Kelly regularly took on banks and pharmaceutical companies in support of the rights of everyday people. Kelly is also looking to unseat a member of End Citizen United’s Big Money 20, Congressman Mike Bost, who is best known for accepting more than $470,000 from Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC and for assuming anti-reform stances throughout his career.
- Andy Kim– Kim is among a few dozen candidates for Congress who have pledged not to accept any corporate or PAC money. A Rhodes Scholar and diplomat, Kim is vying for the 3rd Congressional District of New Jersey seat that is currently held by Tom MacArthur. MacArthur became a poster boy for special interests after authoring the disastrous TrumpCare bill. President Trump thanked him by throwing him a lavish fundraiser at one of his golf courses. Throughout his career, MacArthur has accepted nearly $1 million from corporate PACs.
- Jon Tester –Tester has long been leading the fight to reform campaign finance and improve the level of transparency in elections at every level. He’s introduced multiple bills to make the funding of elections a 100% visible process, plus an amendment to the constitution that would declare once and for all that corporations should not be considered people. He also recently opposed the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, arguing that someone with such extreme views on the ability of money to influence politics had no place in the nation’s highest judicial body. As a result, multiple ‘dark money’ groups have begun pouring millions of dollars into Montana advertising and campaigning in an attempt to discredit and attack him.
- Angus King – Angus King has vowed to oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and cosponsored a Democracy For All amendment introduced in efforts of overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decisions. He’s also cosponsored the Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits Act, and supports the Sunshine in Sponsorship Identification Act and the We the People act. He also opposes a repeal of the Johnson Amendment which restricts the engagement of tax-deductible organizations in political activity.
- Sherrod Brown – During Brown’s 2012 Senate election, more than $40 million was spent by Super PACs and dark money organizations against his campaign. He went on to co-sponsor the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Election Act, also known as the DISCLOSE Act. He’s consistently fought to reduce the amount of secret spending that goes on in elections at every level and worked to introduce transparency into the electoral voting and funding process. Brown also opposed the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, citing the fact that he “cannot support any nominee who does not recognize that corporations are not people.” Brown also voted against Gorsuch during his confirmation process.
- Tammy Baldwin – Baldwin has long called for the reversal of the Citizens United ruling, and has even criticized the ruling that resulted from the McCutcheon vs. FEC case. She was one of the senators who first introduced the We The People reform package designed to strengthen laws against unethical lobbying as well as increase overall transparency in campaign finance. Baldwin also fiercely opposed the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. She even co-sponsored an amendment designed to make companies with high revenue levels to disclose the amount of money they spent on political advertising.
- Donald McEachin – McEachin has spent his political career focused on the needs of the least empowered and most vulnerable citizens of his home state of Virginia. One of the many causes he strongly supports is the fight for campaign finance reform. He co-sponsored the landmark DISCLOSE Act which is designed to help increase the level of transparency in campaign and election spending and make the process less opaque and mysterious for the average citizen. He’s also a vocal leader in the fight to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case.
- Ami Bera – With a focus on the needs of those underserved voices in his home state of California, Bera believes that special interest groups and billionaires shouldn’t have more influence over government thant he people who most needs its support.
The above candidates are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to End Citizens United’s official endorsements for the 2018 midterm elections. Dozens of others—many of whom are incumbents looking to retain their seats—enjoy the support of ECU too, and they are certain to benefit enormously from it. These candidates represent the country’s only hope of wresting control from corporations and special interests and returning it where it belongs: to the people.
But while End Citizens United has made enormous strides in the fight to unite more voices against campaign finance corruption, there is still plenty of work to be done. As the midterm elections approach, voters in favor of campaign finance reform will have to turn out in strong numbers at the polls in order to make real change take shape. If that happens, then End Citizens United, their endorsed candidates, and fed-up citizens everywhere will have sent an unmistakable message that campaign reform is not a pipe dream but a necessary and possible achievement in the future of our democracy.