Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) took a shot at former astronaut and Senate candidate Mark Kelly for breaking his "no corporate PAC money" pledge by making at least 19 paid appearances on a corporate speaking tour over the span of multiple years.
Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D., Ariz.), announced last month he was running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Arizona in 2020, raising $1 million within the first 24 hours of the announcement. As part of his campaign platform, Kelly highlights on his website that "this campaign is about the people of Arizona, not corporate PACs and the mess they’ve created in Washington."
"I won’t take a dime of corporate PAC money, and I’ll only answer to Arizonans," Kelly added.
Gallego, who is still mulling a primary challenge against Kelly, voiced his concerns over the hypocrisy of Kelly's previous corporate speaking gigs during an interview with the Intercept.
"It’s kind of weird, though, to say you’re not taking corporate PAC money, but then also directly taking corporate PAC money into your personal account," Gallego said. "I don’t understand why even take that pledge if you’re not personally living that."
Kelly's spokesperson, Jacob Peters, defended his corporate speaking tour by invoking the assassination attempt against Giffords in 2011, where she was forced to resign from Congress and never reentered public office. In order to financially care for his wife's recovery, Peters said Kelly retired from the Navy and NASA and then began giving motivational speeches.
Peters was also asked by the Intercept whether Kelly would continue giving paid speeches, prompting Peters to say Kelly "has made some previous commitments that he will fulfill, but is not taking any additional engagements." Some of the corporate speaking gigs were sponsored by Goldman Sachs, Optum, and Mortgage Bankers Association, according to the Intercept.
In 2017, he and his brother, Scott, were the keynote speakers at the annual forum for Optum, a $100 billion subsidiary of UnitedHealth, the country’s largest health insurance company. Earlier that year, he and Scott spoke at the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit in the Cayman Islands. An event also attended heavily by hedge fund and private equity executives, the summit is "a not-for-profit event dedicated to supporting financial services both in the Cayman Islands and internationally."
In 2016, Kelly and his brother addressed the annual convention of the Mortgage Bankers Association in Boston, where Megyn Kelly was the keynote speaker. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Quicken Loans were among the event’s sponsors. He also spoke at the group’s 2014 National Mortgage Servicing Conference in Orlando.
He and his brother gave the keynote address at the 2016 annual ThoughtSpot conference hosted by Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen, a pharmaceutical company currently under federal investigation for its relation to opioids and drug diversion.
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Gallego said his office hasn't discussed whether his potential campaign would take corporate PAC donations, but said they are focusing on their "basic research on viability, things like that." Gallego has accepted $763,489 in corporate PAC money over his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.