Issues

Leaked Docs Show DNC Hit Up Monsanto, Walmart, Altria for Cash

Spreadsheet of corporate PACs also includes drug companies, coal producers, pawn shops

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Debbie Wasserman Schultz / AP

The Democratic Party sought to raise money this year from companies often publicly denounced by the party’s leading politicians, including presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, leaked documents reveal.

A list of Democratic National Committee corporate fundraising targets indicates that the party was soliciting cash from sources such as tobacco company Altria, agricultural firm Monsanto, Walmart, McDonalds, and a host of fossil fuel companies, Wall Street banks, health insurers, and drug companies.

The list provides a glimpse of the often frantic efforts to finance high-dollar presidential races, but also reveals a disconnect between common populist rhetoric from leading Democrats, including Clinton, and the party’s efforts to finance what is expected to be the most expensive election in U.S. history.

The document, released on Thursday by a hacker who claims to have breached the DNC’s computer network, breaks down corporate PAC donors into categories. Some have already pledged financial support. Others include notes for follow-ups. And some are "unlikely" supporters or have already declined solicitations.

The list is peppered with health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, two industries that Clinton has described as her political "enemies" even as their Washington lobbyists bankroll her campaign.

Among the insurers that the DNC has apparently approached for contributions are Cigna, Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealth Group. They have also solicited money from drug companies Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Eli Lilly.

Pfizer’s political action committee is one of 46 that the spreadsheet identifies as having already committed money. The DNC asked it to contribute $150,000, it says.

It scheduled meetings between the company’s political action committee and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and two other individuals identified as "Julie" and "AS"–likely referring to Julie Greene, director of the office of DNC’s secretary, and Alexandra Shapiro, its top fundraiser for the Mid-Atlantic region.

As of the document’s creation, Pfizer had committed just $15,000. A note in the spreadsheet says the company "accidentally did corp money."

The DNC also carved out time for Walmart’s PAC, noting scheduled meetings with Wasserman Schultz and other staffers. They planned to ask for $45,000 in support. The company is listed as having committed money, though the spreadsheet does not list a dollar figure.

Walmart is controversial among liberals for its resistance to minimum wage hikes and efforts to unionize the company’s massive workforce.

The spreadsheet shows that as it solicited contributions from Walmart, the DNC was also asking the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has led recent Walmart unionization campaigns and protests against the company, to chip in $45,000.

The union obliged, though the DNC noted that it had "renegged [sic] on their 2015 $45k commitment." The spreadsheet indicated that Wasserman Schultz had discussed Walmart’s contribution with the president of UFCW’s Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on Jan. 8.

For other industries that Democrats have publicly criticized, the DNC offered incentives to attract their financial support. Among the donors approached were a handful of energy companies that do extensive business in the coal sector, including Peabody Energy, Murray Energy, and DTE Energy.

According to the spreadsheet, DTE had been enticed with tickets to the March Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Mich. DTE and other coal companies have been blamed for air problems in Flint created by sulfur dioxide emissions.

Some of the DNC’s efforts to recruit donors could pose problems for Clinton’s efforts to deflect concerns about her ties to Wall Street and other left-wing bogeymen.

According to its spreadsheet, the DNC approached the largest Wall Street banks seeking financial support. Targets included Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse, UBS, as well as the industry’s lobbying shop in Washington, the American Bankers Association, which was marked as a high priority potential donor.

Clinton has also caught flack for her alleged ties to agricultural giant Monsanto, a frequent target of left-wing critics of genetically modified organisms and a DNC donor target, according to the spreadsheet.

As the Obama administration moves forward with regulations restricting payday loans, pawnshop lender Cash America, another DNC fundraising target, could raise red flags.

It is not uncommon for political parties to raise money from private sources that might not align with their policy priorities, according to Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a political transparency group. But such fundraising can impede policymaking that displeases past or potential future donors.

"There's nothing especially novel about the Dems or the Republicans hitting up corporations for financial support, even ones involved in industries they criticize when they're not asking for money," Novak said in an email.

"While a politician's rhetoric on an issue may be strong, the reality is that he or she is reliant on contributions from the very industries that stand to gain or lose from measures introduced in Congress," Novak said.

"That means those interests are able to get in the door for a visit with a lawmaker or top aide, which begins the process of eroding or even killing legislation."