2020 Election

Corporate-Funded PACs Pour Money Into Iowa Dem’s Campaign

Greenfield has taken more than $230,000 from leadership PACs bankrolled by corporations, lobbyists

Iowa Democrat Theresa Greenfield used thousands of dollars from corporate-backed PACs and lobbyists on a new advertisement claiming she "refused corporate PAC money."

Greenfield's Senate campaign has received more than $230,000 from 33 leadership PACs bankrolled by corporations in her bid to unseat Sen. Joni Ernst (R.). The contributions include $33,500 in the second quarter of 2020, according to Greenfield's latest financial disclosures. Those PACs have combined to accept more than $4 million in corporate money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Greenfield has used the donations to flood the Hawkeye state with advertisements denouncing the influence of corporate money in politics. After stating in a June 19 ad that she does not "think politicians should put corporate interests ahead of you," Greenfield released a new ad on July 15 that claims she "won't take a dime in corporate PAC money, period."

In addition to the hundreds of thousands from corporate-backed PACs, Greenfield has benefited from nearly $11 million from liberal outside groups. Many of those groups also received millions from corporations—the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which has spent nearly $30,000 backing Greenfield, accepted $3 million from corporate PACs during the 2020 cycle alone. Top donors include pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and top insurance companies Blue Cross, UnitedHealth, Cigna, and Humana. The Iowa Democrat's top lobbyist donors also have strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Forbes Tate Partners' Jeffrey Forbes, who gave Greenfield $2,700 in June, has received $17.6 million in pharmaceutical lobbying contracts to date, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Greenfield did not respond to a request for comment.

Ernst fired back at Greenfield's claims of campaign finance purity with a July ad of her own. She accused the Iowa Democrat of taking "over half a million dollars from corporate lobbyists, executives, and CEOs." Following the July 15 release of Greenfield's second quarter fundraising report, Ernst campaign spokesperson Melissa Deatsch issued an updated figure, saying Greenfield "took another $200,000 … bringing the total amount this cycle to more than $700,000."

"Team Joni will work to ensure Iowans know that despite her rhetoric not to take ‘one dime' of special interest money, Greenfield has hypocritically taken $700,000 from corporate lobbyists, executives and CEOs," Deatsch said in a statement.

Greenfield has faced criticism from fellow Iowa Democrats for taking corporate money via leadership PACs. During a May primary debate, Navy veteran Mike Franken highlighted the $7 million that Chuck Schumer-aligned Senate Majority PAC spent backing Greenfield, noting that the group is bankrolled by "lobbyists and corporate PACs and Bain Capital and businesses, and frankly a lot of it is dark money." Businessman Eddie Mauro also attacked Greenfield, saying she "says she wants to end corruption, but she's taking corrupt money, so there's an issue there."

"You can't smile at people and tell them you're not taking corporate PAC money when you're taking tens of thousands of dollars of corporate PAC money, leadership PAC money that's full of pharmaceutical money, fossil fuel money, and Wall Street money," Mauro said.

Greenfield went on to win the crowded primary after spending more than $2.3 million on the race. Franken, who finished second, spent just $960,000 and did not receive support from outside groups. Both Franken and Mauro were targeted by last-minute attack ads funded by abortion advocacy group EMILY's List.

Greenfield and Ernst will face off in November. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as "lean Republican."