Iowa Democratic Senate frontrunner Abby Finkenauer claims she hasn't taken a "dime of corporate PAC money." In fact, she's accepted thousands of dollars from groups that are funded by top U.S. corporations.
During a Monday candidate forum, Finkenauer boasted she's "really proud" that her campaign hasn't "taken a dime of corporate PAC money." But the Democrat did not mention that she's accepted thousands of dollars from congressional leadership committees that are bankrolled by corporations.
In September, for example, Finkenauer accepted $5,000 from Elect Democratic Women, a PAC associated with colleagues Reps. Joyce Beatty (D., Ohio), Julia Brownley (D., Calif.), and Lois Frankel (D., Fla.). The group raked in tens of thousands of dollars from U.S. corporations in the 2020 cycle, including Pfizer, Aflac, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Verizon, and Capital One. Finkenauer went on to accept $5,000 in December from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D., Calif.) PAC to the Future, which stockpiled lucrative donations from Google, Visa, Deloitte, Comcast, and General Motors in 2020.
In total, Finkenauer has accepted $16,500 from six leadership committees that have raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in combined corporate cash. The contributions came as the Democrat pledged to "fight for working families, not corporate elites."
Finkenauer, who did not return a request for comment, is far from the only Democrat to take thousands from corporate-funded groups while swearing off corporate money. Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.), who has called corporate PAC money "one of the biggest problems in our politics today," received $55,500 last quarter from corporate-backed trade groups and leadership committees. The loophole allows Democrats to benefit from corporations' political contributions while claiming they oppose corporate cash.
This is not the first time Finkenauer has accepted campaign cash from sources she's publicly distanced herself from. During her 2018 congressional run, Finkenauer took $14,000 from Pelosi as she refused to back Pelosi for speaker.
Finkenauer launched her Senate bid against seven-term Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley in July, just months after she failed to retain her House seat. Finkenauer lost by roughly 3 points against Republican challenger Ashley Hinson in 2020.
While Iowa Democratic Senate candidates have raised big money in their bids to unseat top Republicans in recent years, that financial muscle has not translated to success at the polls. Twice-failed candidate Theresa Greenfield, for example, raised $47.5 million to Republican incumbent Joni Ernst's $20.8 million in the 2020 cycle. Still, Ernst defeated Greenfield by 6 points in a race that national Democrats touted as an upset opportunity. Finkenauer also outraised her Republican opponent in the third quarter of 2021, raking in about $1 million to Grassley's $584,000. According to a September Des Moines Register poll, however, she trails Grassley by 18 points.
Before she faces Grassley in November, Finkenauer must emerge from Iowa's June Democratic primary. Her top opponent is Michael Franken, a retired Navy vice admiral who received 25 percent of the vote in an unsuccessful Democratic Senate run in 2020. Franken has thus far raised $425,000 to Finkenauer's nearly $2 million.