Congresswoman Luria was put on blast todayin the local press for taking $30,000 in corporate PAC checks, despite pledging to refuse corporate PAC money in her campaign.
Luria’s response is worth reading in full, but warning in advance: it’s pretty cringe and already received scathing condemnation from the left.
If voters can’t trust Luria to uphold even the most central promise of her campaign, how can they trust even a single word she has to say?
In case you missed it…
In 2018, Luria said she wouldn’t accept corporate PAC money. But she just took in more than $30,000
February 5, 2021
After making a promise in 2018 to not use money from corporate political action committees, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria has changed her mind.
Luria, a Democrat who lives in Norfolk, ended her 2020 campaign owing more than she had in her campaign account and accepted more than $30,000 from corporate PACs at the end of 2020, according to CQ Roll Call, which first reported Luria’s reversal.
The contributions were from the corporate PACs of Google, Altria, Raytheon, General Dynamics and others, according to Federal Election Commission documents.
First elected in 2018, then re-elected in 2020, Luria represents the second district of Virginia, which includes all or parts of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, the Peninsula and the Eastern Shore.
In a 2018 debate against former Rep. Scott Taylor, a Republican who was the incumbent at the time, she swore off corporate PACs when answering a question about prescription drugs.
“I can tell you that a key tenet in my campaign is that I am not accepting any corporate PAC contributions,” she said during the debate. “Not from prescription drug companies, not from oil companies, not from private prisons, not from anyone who can influence my vote when I go to Washington. My door is open to listen to everyone, but I don’t need their money in order to do that.”
The Pilot requested an interview with Luria, but her campaign declined, saying she was unavailable. However, her campaign manager offered statements over email.
When asked why Luria changed her mind, Kate Fegley wrote, “We’ve always taken ideological PAC money, association PAC money, and labor PAC money. All of our reports show that. The new element is corporate employee pooled money. All these PAC funds come from individual small dollar contributions from employees.”
Campaigns make the distinction of “corporate employee-funded PACs” and “corporate PACs” because when someone says “corporate PAC,” folks think big business money, Fegley said.
On the federal level, businesses can’t cut corporate business checks, the funds all have to come voluntarily from employees. They are actually the same thing. Corporate PACs can have multiple PACs though, and spend money on advocacy issues, but not on direct campaign donations.
Fegley also noted that Luria didn’t promise during her 2020 election to not take money from corporate PACs; she only did so during her 2018 election.
“After serving her first term, Congresswoman Luria learned more about the issue from her constituents and made the decision to accept corporate employee pooled PAC contributions, as they are an important way for the average person to be involved in the political process,” Fegley wrote.
However, when asked if she thought Luria needed to renew the pledge every campaign cycle and if the public expects promises to change every election cycle, she didn’t answer the questions.
Fegley also emphasized that Luria “is not beholden to any entity but her constituents.”
Luria raised about $6.6 million over the 2020 campaign, according to FEC documents.
There’s a skepticism about big money in politics that runs through our body politic like veins, said Quentin Kidd, the dean of social sciences and the academic director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. Politicians, especially on the left, have often used the distinction — saying they won’t take it — to their advantage, he noted.
“At the end of the day, a candidate or elected official, the greatest thing they have to go on, voters have to trust when they say they’re going to do or not do something,” Kidd said.
He said changing her mind is OK, but she’s obligated to explain herself to the public.
“At the end of the day, what makes voters so cynical is when politicians say something on the campaign trail and then not do it or do the opposite once they are in office and just avoid any accountability,” he said.
Luria certainly isn’t the only one who has gone back on that promise. But the decision could be costly if she seeks re-election in 2022, Kidd said.
“From a tactical campaign perspective, if nothing else she’s got to be prepared to talk about this,” he said.
The second district has only recently flipped blue, with Luria’s two elections.
“In really safe districts, candidates can get away with breaking promises because they’re in such safe districts,” Kidd said. “I don’t think the second district is that. I think she’s going to have to answer for it.”