U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has pledged to no longer accept donations from corporate political action committees to fund her campaign or the Off the Sidelines PAC she established to encourage more women to run for office.
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., announced her decision Tuesday. By declining to take corporate PAC contributions, she received an endorsement from End Citizens United, a leading campaign finance reform group.
In a video posted to her Twitter account, Gillibrand explained why she will no longer accept checks from corporate PACs. One reason is her concern with the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. The court ruled that free speech protections apply to corporations wishing to support political campaigns.
"We have a system where corporations can spend unlimited money that isn't even disclosed so there's no transparency," she said.
Gillibrand has been a prodigious fundraiser during her time in Congress. In the 2018 Senate election cycle, which began in January 2013, she has received more than $14.6 million in contributions. Most of her money has come from individuals. But more than $1.1 million in donations has come from "other committees," such as PACs.
Until this year, Gillibrand received donations from corporate PACs. A few examples include $2,500 each from corporate PACs for Deutsche Bank Americas and Home Depot. She also received $1,000 from Anthem's corporate PAC.
Gillibrand highlighted her record of transparency in Congress. When she was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006, she was the first member of Congress to publish their earmark requests, financial disclosures and schedule online. She now posts her tax returns on her Senate website.
"We really need to make every effort we can to get rid of the corporate money and dark money that is flowing into politics, and my effort to ban corporate PAC checks is just a first step in that direction," she said.
While Gillibrand is being discussed as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, she is up for re-election this year. She will seek another six-year term in the Senate. Her likely Republican opponent is Chele Chiavacci Farley, a private equity executive who is the New York City finance chair for the state Republican Party.