By: Ronald J. Hansen
Democrat Hiral Tipirneni’s West Valley congressional campaign has received the backing of a national group that wants to drive corporate cash out of politics.
End Citizens United, a Washington-based political-action committee that helped Democrats raise money in their recent upset wins in Alabama and Pennsylvania, said Tuesday it is asking its donors now to help Tipirneni in Arizona’s special congressional election in the West Valley next month.
Tipirneni said Tuesday she is rejecting any corporate PAC money in her campaign for the vacant 8th District seat, a move intended to draw a sharp contrast with her Republican opponent, Debbie Lesko, who has been cast as an ally of business interests as a state lawmaker.
End Citizens United touts its “thousands of grassroots supporters from around the country,” saying it uses their donations to back “pro-reform candidates.” The PAC said it has 5,800 members in the conservative West Valley district and 400,000 nationwide.
The organization claims its donors raised more than $550,000 to help Democrat Conor Lamb win last week in a conservative Pennsylvania House district, and they gave $600,000 to help Democrat Doug Jones win a Senate race in Alabama in December. It also helped bring $1 million to the Democrats’ losing effort in a Georgia congressional race last year.
“As an emergency room physician and advocate for cancer research, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni has dedicated her life to helping others. She’s exactly the kind of proven problem-solver we need to reform Washington and help improve the lives of Arizonans,” the PAC’s president, Tiffany Muller, said. “Dr. Tipirneni’s decision to reject corporate PAC money underscores her commitment to giving a voice to Arizona families who have been ignored by Washington’s rigged system as special interests have gotten their way.”
Tipirneni welcomed the support and said, if elected, she would put people ahead of corporations.
“It’s rather apparent that Washington is broken, and stopping the stream of secret money is a huge step in the right direction,” Tipirneni said in a statement. “I promise to fight for our neighbors and communities here in the West Valley, and not corporate handlers more worried about their bottom-lines than Americans’ well-being.”
The Lesko campaign dismissed the move and said it has the support of better-known figures in the district.
“While virtually no one in (the district) has heard of this group, Debbie has garnered the support of prominent people like Gov. Doug Ducey, former Gov. Jan Brewer and West Valley mayors like Jerry Weiers of Glendale, Georgia Lord of Goodyear and Thomas Schoaf of Litchfield Park,” said Barrett Marson, a spokesman for the Lesko campaign. “These are people known and respected in the West Valley.”
Group solidly aligned with Dems
Tipirneni’s prohibition on corporate PAC money could help her tap into a wider Democratic pool of donors. It also sidesteps the reality that, in a district that leans heavily Republican, a political newcomer might not have gotten much of that money anyway.
ECU takes its name from the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for unlimited independent spending by corporations, labor unions and certain advocacy groups in political campaigns. Other rulings that allow donor secrecy for some groups and other wrinkles in the current campaign finance landscape have frustrated liberals and conservatives alike.
Still, ECU is solidly aligned with Democrats, according to an analysis of its spending by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
For her part, Lesko has already created a stir about campaign fundraising. The nonpartisan, Washington-based Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint against her and an allied PAC with the Federal Election Commission. The CLC claims Lesko broke FEC rules by moving $50,000 in January from a state PAC that financed her Arizona legislative races to a federal PAC that is supposed to operate independently of her campaign.
Lesko’s legal team maintains her campaign did not coordinate how the money was spent. Arizona’s Secretary of State dismissed a state-level complaint about the matter within days of a complaint by Phil Lovas, one of Lesko’s rivals for the Republican nomination.
Early voting in the special election begins March 28 and ends with in-person balloting on April 24. The race is being held to replace Trent Franks, who resigned in disgrace midway through his eighth term in December over sexual-misconduct allegations.