(UPDATE, 4/23/18, 1:38 PM ET: In an interview with The Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne Tha God, Sen. Harris said she would pledge to no longer accept corporate PAC money, stating, “money has now really tipped the balance between an individual having equal power in an election to a corporation. So I’ve actually made a decision since I had that conversation that I’m not gonna accept corporate PAC checks.”)
Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), who is presumed to be a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, won’t refuse corporate campaign donations.
During a recent town hall in Sacramento, California, Sen. Harris was bluntly asked whether or not she would take a pledge to not accept any campaign contributions from corporations or their PACs. Rather than give a direct yes or no answer, Harris demurred, saying, “it depends.”
After the questioner said she gave a “wrong answer,” Harris turned it back on the questioner, saying it just wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear. Even the moderator chimed in with a worn-out phrase intended to tell the questioner to sit down and be quiet.
QUESTIONER: My question is this: If a corporation or a corporate lobbyist wants to give you money for a campaign, will you tell them, ‘Thanks but no thanks?'”
KAMALA HARRIS: Well, I, it depends. It depends, I mean…
QUESTIONER: Wrong answer.
HARRIS: Well, that’s not the answer you want to hear, it doesn’t make it wrong. (APPLAUSE)
MODERATOR: That was a ‘Bye Felicia’ there.
Harris, to her credit, thanked the man for asking his question, and left the matter of her campaign donations open to interpretation by voters. Whether or not a donation changes how a public official votes on a certain issue, she argued, was up for the voters to decide.
“I’m an open book,” Sen. Harris said. “Feel free to look at it, and draw your own conclusions about what has motivated me and what hasn’t.”
During her relatively short career in the U.S. Senate, which began in January of 2017, Kamala Harris has received more than $17 million, more than two-thirds of which has come from large individual contributions. Many of those donations came during her 2016 campaign for senate, when she was still serving as Attorney General of California. The Center for Responsive Politics found that law firms, along with leading media (Time Warner and 21st Century Fox) and tech companies (Alphabet, which is Google’s parent company, and Apple), have made up the bulk of Kamala Harris’ corporate contributions.
Harris is seen as a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Most notably, her top potential competitors for the nomination — Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) — have all refused to accept campaign contributions from corporate PACs.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.