Francis Conole

Francis Conole, a U.S. Navy veteran, is seeking the Democratic nomination in New York's 24th Congressional District. 

Francis Conole will not accept donations from corporate political action committees to support his campaign for the 24th Congressional District seat. 

Conole, D-Syracuse, made the pledge in an email to campaign supporters Tuesday. In the email, he wrote that it was an "easy decision" to reject corporate PAC money. 

"Corporate interests have been buying elected officials for too long," he said. "It has led to more and more policies which gut the middle class and leave working families struggling." 

Conole added in an interview with The Citizen that he believes it's important to get "big corporate money" out of politics. He thinks large campaign contributors have prevented action on several issues, including investments in education and addressing climate change. 

He is the first candidate in the 2020 race to reject corporate PAC donations. Dana Balter didn't accept corporate PAC funds when she ran for Congress last year. 

Conole's pledge is in line with his positions on campaign finance reform. He supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The court's ruling, critics contend, led to an influx of corporate campaign contributions and corporations having greater influence in the political process. 

With Democrats controlling the House and a chance the party may win the Senate majority in 2020, Conole believes it should be a top priority. 

"I think most Americans would agree that big money and special interests in our politics is a bad thing," he said. 

Conole supports H.R. 1, a bill proposed by Democrats that included several campaign finance and ethics reforms. He endorsed public financing of elections and providing matching funds for small dollar donations. 

In his email blast, he requested donations of $10, $25, $50 and $100. He also gave supporters the option of donating an amount of their choice. 

"The more people you can connect with and the more voters you can talk to, the more you prioritize their vote an then your campaign is based on smaller contributions," he said. "That's what I need to do." 

Conole is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. John Katko, a Republican. He is one of three Democratic candidates in the race.  Balter and Roger Misso, a Red Creek native who now lives in Syracuse, are also in the race. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.