Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: Six Questions for Alaska Congressional Candidates--#3 Campaign Finance: Taking money from lobbyists and PACs

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Six Questions for Alaska Congressional Candidates--#3 Campaign Finance: Taking money from lobbyists and PACs

I submitted six questions to all of the Progressive candidates for the Alaska At-Large Congressional seat (running against Don Young) as well as the U.S. Senate seat (running against Ted Stevens). The ones who responded were Ethan Berkowitz, Diane Benson and Mark Begich. Here is the answer to question number three from AK-AL candidates Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz, running in the primary on August 26th.

(P.S. I've had several people ask why I have not been including any commentary on these posts. I wanted to present these answers to you as I received them from the candidates and allow everyone to analyze and decide for themselves.)

3) Campaign Finance: Senator Barack Obama, as the new leader of the Party has told the DNC that they are no longer permitted to accept money from lobbyists or PACs. For his own campaign, this requirement has been so stringent he’s returned small, personal donations to anyone who identifies him/herself as a “lobbyist” of any kind. Will you be incorporating that directive into your own campaign and refusing money from these sources?


Time and again I stood up in Juneau for campaign finance reform. For limits from big money, against easing restrictions on lobbyists – for more accountability and more transparency in our political process, and for measures that defended the integrity of institutions against corruption.

Those are the principles I have imparted to my campaign.

It’s about more than PACs. I believe that working families, and not just the wealthy, should have a voice in the political process and am proud to accept the support of labor unions. I am honored to receive the support of members of Congress. I am grateful that supporters of groups like Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign have found a way to pool their resources and support my candidacy.

I will continue to speak out for public financing of campaigns. I will continue to oppose corporate participation in the political process, and I will continue to be a proven voice for ethical government.


Let me be clear. Representatives of the people should not take money from lobbyists. It’s just that simple. I applaud Senator Obama and the DNC for taking such a bold stance on campaign finance reform. I believe that we as democrats, the party which represents the heart, the soul, and the voice of the average American, have an obligation to resist the temptation of special interests.

As many of you know, I’ve been calling for campaign finance reform since I ran to retire Don Young in 2006. I’m proud to run a campaign financed by people and not by special interests. This is why I’ve never taken money from lobbyists or Industry PACs. The simple truth is these sources don’t hand out large piles of money without expecting something in return.

Clean government is THE defining issue in this election. Campaign finance reform is the best way of cleaning up government and is the primary difference between myself and my opponents. When our elderly are forced to choose between life sustaining food and life saving medicine, when telecom companies get off the hook for violating our civil liberties, or when Congress watches while families collapse under the weight of excruciatingly high gas prices; and yet refuses to act…we can bet it is because Representatives took money from big business lobbyists. Campaign finance isn’t just a matter of ethics. It’s a matter of making progress as a country. I hope that all voters will think long and hard between now and August 26th. Before the people of Alaska vote they need to ask themselves one simple question, “Do you want your Congressperson to represent you or lobbyists?”

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Anonymous Polarbear said...

I am confused. I thought donations from PACs and lobbyists had surfaced as one of the defining issues of the Democratic primary for the Congressional seat.

From the Alaska Report:

"Ethan's response that he accepts lobbyist money, but is not influenced by them is nothing more than the same old recycled Don Young talking point we've heard over and over again throughout the years. In fact, the President of a DC lobbyist firm, The Aegis Group, who has given money to Ethan says on his website." You are but one of countless concerns. Aegis is experienced at persuading Congressmen to place the needs of our clients at the top of the priority list." [www.aegisdc.com/myths.htm]. That might fly in Washington, but Alaskans expect more out of their Congressperson."

"So today I, again, call on Ethan to return these lobbyists contributions, especially donations from Ashley Reed, who just had criminal charges filed against him by the state I implore Mr. Berkowitz to return his lobbyist money and join me in my pledge to help change Congress by refusing to take any additional money from lobbyist or industry PAC's in the future."

For me, Diane's earlier statement is a defining issue. I do not see a continuation of the discussion in this blog. What happened?

8/19/2008 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Problem is, Diane has accepted more than $25,000 in donations from those in the Gaming industry. She also says that lobbyists shouldn't be contributing to campaigns, but what about all the labor unions who support our Democratic candidates again and again - those unions certainly lobby the government as well. Does Ms. Benson support banning union money? Didn't she in fact actively try to get the NEA Alaska endorsement and the money that entails? AFL-CIO? ASCFME? Is it individual lobbyists she opposes, or the organizations that employ them.

I'm not attacking, I'm genuinely confused by this seeming contradiction and hope that someone can explain it to me.


8/19/2008 9:51 AM  
Blogger Philip Munger said...

anon @ #2 - Diane Benson has taken some funds - far less than the "more than $25,000" you cite here, from Native American entities. Some of those entities own casinos. Others do not. None of those entities exist solely on their gaming income. Open Secrets dot Org will be issuing a correction to their racist canard against Diane Benson as soon as it can be posted there.

8/19/2008 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, sorry, I may be missing something, but how is it racist to say that she got money from individuals in the gaming industry or tribes involved in the gaming industry, if those people and those tribes listed Gaming as their occupation?

8/19/2008 12:38 PM  
Blogger CelticDiva said...

These questions were sent several months ago and answered a several weeks ago.

This particular question may be a little behind the curve considering what has transpired in the last several weeks.

8/19/2008 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Polarbear said...

Celticdiva: Thanks. That's the answer.

I just want to say again how relevant this issue has become. Lobbyist and PAC money comes with at least an attempted quid pro quo of the legislator, otherwise it would not be given.

In the case of PAC contributions, I would rather hear the candidate acknowledge the relationship, as in "this democratic PAC and I agree on substantial issues in Alaska's best interests, and so I find no conflict in accepting the contribution", or something to that effect. But to say that lobbyist and PAC contributions do not affect access, the content of bills, and voting is not credible.

8/19/2008 2:32 PM  
Blogger Philip Munger said...

Diane Benson's campaign has sent the following, hoping for a speedy correction:

My name is Tony Vita and I am the Treasurer for The Committee to Elect Diane Benson for Congress. Diane Benson is running for U.S. Congress from Alaska.

I was surprised to see that Open Secrets.Org reported that Diane had received $25,800 from "Casinos/Gambling". Supposedly, this information came from The Center for Responsive Politics. I am not sure how you came up with this number but here are the total donations from American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes for the 2008 Primary Election Cycle:

Redding Rancheria 500.00
Tule River Tribal Council 1,000.00
Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians 500.00
Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians 250.00
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation 500.00
Ketchikan Indian Community 500.00
Pauma Band of Mission Indians 1,500.00
Tohono O'Odham Nation 2,300.00
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe 500.00
Muckleshoot Indian Tribe 2,300.00
Hualapai Tribe 500.00
Cocopah Indian Tribe 250.00


In addition, the Tohono O'Odham Nation has donated $2,300 toward s the General Election. As you can see, the total is well below what you reported and not all of them have casino/gambling interests. In fact, most of them do not. There are certainly no casinos in Alaska. Charities may run Bingo or Pull Tabs but that is it.

I have also scanned our donor lists to see if there were people working for Casinos and found none. We have people who have donated who belong to American Indian Tribes and either the tribes have noting to do with gaming or their jobs have nothing to do with gaming.

So, the question is, how did you come up with such an erroneous number? Given that the Primary election is less than a week away, speed is of the essence here and we would very much appreciate your reviewing your numbers and making the appropriate corrections. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Tony Vita
The Committee to Elect Diane Benson for Congress

8/19/2008 3:55 PM  
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8/24/2008 10:16 AM  

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