More Dems Declare Independence From Leadership Despite Fundraising Ties to Pelosi

Gil Cisneros rejects Pelosi's leadership, plans to accept cash from fundraiser she headlines

Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi / Getty Images

California Democrat Gil Cisneros, who is running to replace GOP Rep. Ed Royce, plans to join Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) for a fundraiser she's headlining despite announcing his opposition to her leadership bid.

A week and a half ago Cisneros became one of the latest Democratic candidates to say he will not vote for Pelosi for speaker if his party takes back the House this fall and Pelosi runs for the top House leadership post.

"While I respect Leader Pelosi's years of advocacy on behalf of California and the Democratic Party, it's time for new leadership," Cisneros said in a statement on June 21.

However, the former Navy veteran and lottery-winner has no problem accepting Pelosi's help filling his campaign coffers.

Cisneros and seven other Democratic candidates running in competitive districts in California are scheduled to appear at a fundraiser featuring Pelosi and California's Democratic senators, Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein.

Equality California, an LGBT rights organization, is hosting the fundraiser while Pelosi, Harris and Feinstein are lending their political star power to help attract top Democratic donors to the event. 

Republicans are citing the fundraiser as proof that Cisneros’ attempt to separate himself from Pelosi rings hollow.

"Gil Cisneros must not think Southern California families are very smart," said Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, House Republicans' election arm. "It's simple: If you take Nancy's money, you own her baggage."

A Cisneros campaign spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon that Cisneros has not accepted any money directly from Pelosi or other members of the Democratic leadership.

He did not respond to a question on whether directly benefitting from a fundraiser Pelosi is headlining undermines his efforts to distance himself from her.

When it comes to raising cash, it is difficult to avoid Pelosi. The 78-year-old House minority leader is one of the party's most prolific fundraisers, with most of the funds she rakes in going to helping her party's candidates for Congress in some form or another.

For instance, Pelosi last month headlined a $25,000-a-person star-studded fundraiser in Los Angeles benefitting the House Majority PAC, which is supporting Democrats in the midterm elections.

Cisneros has pledged not to directly accept PAC money. However, the House Majority PAC and other liberal groups spent millions on television ads and get-out-the-vote efforts during the final weeks of California's chaotic "jungle primary" boosting Cisneros and other Democratic candidates across the finish line.

Those efforts were credited with helping Cisneros and other Democrats from being completely shut out of the state's top-two primary system, where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, go on to the compete in the general election.

They were successful, with Cisneros earning a spot to compete against Republican Young Kim, the leading vote getter in the primary contest.

Cisneros is not the first Democratic candidate to publicly distance himself from Pelosi then go on to privately embrace her for a fundraiser.

Illinois Democrat Brendan Kelly in March said he thought the party needed "new leadership" in the House and vowed to push for it if elected, then joined the minority leader for a Capitol Hill fundraiser she and others from the Democratic leadership team hosted in late April.

Kathy Manning, who is running for Congress in North Carolina, on Thursday became the latest House Democratic candidate to disavow Pelosi, even though she has donated to Pelosi in the past.

"I cannot vote for more of the same, and I cannot support Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan to lead Congress. We need fresh faces and bold ideas leading both parties," Manning wrote in Fourth-of-July day post on Medium. "The only way to change Washington is to change who's in charge of Washington. For July 4th, I am declaring my independence from the special interests and knee-jerk party loyalty."

Manning has donated more than $200,000 to state and national Democrats since 2000, including $1,500 to Pelosi, the News & Observer noted in its report on Manning distancing herself from the minority leader.

Numerous Democratic candidates have said they would not support Pelosi following the win by Conor Lamb in a Pennsylvania special election, during which his opposition to Pelosi was a central plank in his campaign.