Colorado Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, who frequently touts his opposition to corporate influence in politics, has hauled in more than $1 million from corporate executives and lobbyists and hundreds of thousands more from PACs that take corporate donations.
Federal Election Commission records show that Hickenlooper has directly collected more than $1.1 million from corporate executives in his bid to unseat Republican senator Cory Gardner. The cash flowed from high-level executives at Microsoft, Geico, UnitedHealth, BlueShield, and other companies. Many of the executives made maximum contributions to Hickenlooper's campaign.
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Hickenlooper has made anti-corporate rhetoric a major part of his campaign in a race that could determine which party controls Congress’s upper chamber. He has highlighted his call to limit the influence of corporations in fundraising pleas, digital ads, and speeches. The stance also helped him land an endorsement from End Citizens United, the left's premier group opposing major moneyed interests. The former governor's boost from corporate executives, however, flies in the face of his anti-corporate rhetoric.
Despite his calls to "get Washington working for the American people" instead of "big business," Hickenlooper also pulled in $70,000 from dozens of federally registered lobbyists who work to influence policy for corporations. The lobbyists represent a wide array of industries including oil and gas (ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Trans Atlantic Petroleum), health care and pharmaceuticals (UnitedHealth Group, Amgen, and Purdue), and finance (Blackstone Group, Ernst & Young, and Goldman Sachs).
Hickenlooper has also vowed not to accept money from corporate PACs. Despite that promise, he has accepted $180,000 through a loophole—taking donations from Democratic leadership PACs fueled by cash from corporate PACs.
These donations include $10,000 from Sen. Jacky Rosen’s (Nev.) Smart Solutions PAC, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (Ariz.) Getting Stuff Done PAC, Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s (Mich.) GREAT LAKES PAC, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s (Nev.) All for Our Country Leadership PAC, all of which have received a vast amount of funding from corporate PACs. Other PACs that have given thousands to Hickenlooper's campaign—such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (R.I.) Oceans PAC and Sen. Jon Tester’s (Mont.) Treasure State PAC—have been flooded with corporate PAC cash.
Hickenlooper is not the only Democratic Senate candidate who received corporate cash through pass-through entities. As of late last year, candidates who swore off corporate PAC cash and received the endorsement of End Citizens United combined to receive $1.6 million from allied PACs that accept corporate-linked contributions.
One such candidate, North Carolina Democrat Cal Cunningham, has claimed that his Senate campaign was not funded by special interests. Politifact rated his claim as "mostly false" due to the corporate PAC money that made its way into his campaign’s coffers through other Democratic PACs. Cunningham has also taken campaign cash directly from corporate executives.
Another Democratic Senate candidate, Arizona's Mark Kelly, has also received tens of thousands from Democratic leadership PACs that take corporate cash. He has also personally received almost $300,000 from speaking engagements—some of which were sponsored by large corporations—since his campaign began.
Hickenlooper’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.