End Citizens United (ECU) today announced it will target Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06) as part of its new Big Money 20 campaign – a $35 million effort focused on defeating the worst of Washington’s rigged system by educating voters on how their representatives, like Costello, prioritize the needs of special interests that fund their campaigns over the needs of their constituents.
“Congressman Costello represents a rigged system that puts mega-donors and the special interests above Pennsylvania families,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United. “Donald Trump was elected on a promise to drain the swamp, but things are only getting worse in Washington. Ryan Costello is one of the worst offenders and we will hold him accountable. We’re mobilizing our more than three million grassroots members to throw these politicians out of office and elect reformers who will focus on all of us, not just those who write the biggest checks.”
The Big Money 20 is the first concerted effort to reclaim independent and unaffiliated voters who voted for President Trump, but still heavily favor candidates who want to reform the rigged political system. The members of the Big Money 20 are incumbents who do the bidding of special interests like drug companies, Big Oil, Wall Street, and others with deep pockets while also voting to keep the rigged system in place.
For example, Costello has received $300,000 in campaign donations from Big Pharma – a favor he later returned when he cosponsored a bill that made it harder for the Drug Enforcement Administration to control the supply of prescription narcotics. In 2016, opioid overdoses increased by approximately 37 percent in Pennsylvania, and counties in Costello’s District had overdose deaths rise by over 50 percent. Costello sold his constituents out for $300,000; that’s just about forty-six cents per constituent.
In addition, Costello voted against campaign finance reforms that would ensure the American people know who is spending money in elections.
Here are a few examples of how the actions of the Big Money 20 have hurt their constituents, and millions of others across the country:
The Big Money 20 benefited from $11.7 million from special interest groups pushing tax reform that will raise taxes on the middle class and disproportionately benefit millionaires. Seventeen members of the Big Money 20 voted for the bill which is expected to raise taxes on 13 million Americans who earn less than $100,000 a year, while half of the benefits would be handouts to the richest one percent in the country.
Over their careers, the Big Money 20 received over $13.3 million from Wall Street. In 2017, every member of this group voted for legislation to gut regulations to keep our economy safe and protect consumers from predatory practices. Every House member of the Big Money 20 voted for the Financial Choice Act, which allowed the President to readily fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency responsible for protecting the rights of everyday Americans against predatory financial practices, and shut down public access to the Agency’s database of consumer complaints.
After filling their coffers with over $2 million from the telecom industry, 18 members of the Big Money 20 voted in March for a resolution – S.J. Res. 34 – that allowed major internet companies to sell customer data without their consent.
ECU plans to raise and spend $35 million this cycle from grassroots, small-dollar donors to defeat these politicians and elect champions of reform. The Big Money 20 campaign will be targeted at districts where the issue of reform has been proven to motivate and persuade voters, notably independents and unaffiliated voters as well as many white working class voters – many of whom voted for Trump and his populist, anti-establishment message of reforming the way business is done in Washington.
Over the past two years, ECU has conducted extensive polling and research showing that independent and unaffiliated voters rank getting money out of politics as a high priority, ahead of or equal to jobs and health care, and that two out of three voters believe the amount of money in politics impacts “kitchen table” issues. The group has also seen widespread support for increasing transparency and accountability in the system including limits on what special interests like drug companies, the healthcare industry and Wall Street can spend to influence politicians.
Founded in 2015, ECU is a traditional political action committee (PAC) with more than three million members, including 5,800 in PA-06. Funded by small-dollar, grassroots donors who give an average contribution of just $14, ECU raised $25 million last cycle and helped elect 65 members of Congress, including three new U.S. Senators and 16 new U.S. Representatives. The group is dedicated to ending the corrosive influence of Big Money in politics and fixing our rigged political system by electing campaign finance reform champions, passing state ballot measures, and elevating the issue in the national conversation.
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