Arizona Senate candidate Mark Kelly (D.) has pledged not to accept donations from corporate PACs but received tens of thousands of dollars from Democratic leadership PACs heavily funded by corporate entities.
Kelly, who faced scrutiny earlier this year for financially benefiting from corporate speaking gigs, received more than $55,000 from Democratic leadership PACs financially backed by corporate entities during the third quarter, according to his campaign's most recent filing.
"I think Washington, D.C., is failing the state of Arizona on these things, and there's structural problems with the way our system is set up," Kelly said during a Fox 10 interview in early November. "As an example, corporate PAC money in our political system makes it so hard for people to get elected to Congress to do what they think is right instead of doing what some company wants. That's why I'm not taking corporate PAC money."
Kelly sent out several tweets from his official Twitter account over the last few months criticizing corporate PACs, calling them "one of the biggest problems in our politics today."
One of the biggest problems in our politics today is the amount of corporate PAC money in politics. That's why I refuse to take a dime from corporate PACs to fund my campaign. I will always fight #ForArizona families, not special interests.
— Captain Mark Kelly (@CaptMarkKelly) August 16, 2019
While Kelly isn't directly taking money from corporate PACs, his campaign is still benefiting from a loophole by which leadership PACs serve as a pass-through for corporate cash. The retired astronaut received over a dozen donations in September from leadership PACs, including the Country Roads and Blue Hen PACs. The donations ranged from $2,500 to $5,000.
Blue Hen PAC, which is affiliated with Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.), has made three $2,500 donations to Kelly's campaign in 2019. Two of the donations were made on Sept. 30, and the other came during the second quarter. The leadership PAC received multiple $5,000 donations from the corporate PACs of Bank of America, Google, Microsoft, Comcast, and AT&T for the 2020 election cycle.
Kelly's campaign also received two $2,500 donations from Country Roads PAC, which is affiliated with Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.). One of the donations was received on Sept. 30, and the other came during the second quarter. Some of the corporate PACs that donated to Manchin's PAC were Altria, Comcast, General Motors, and Northrop Grumman.
The Kelly campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the PAC donations.
Since announcing his candidacy, Kelly's campaign has received more than $140,000 from leadership PACs, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D., N.Y.) Impact PAC, which is funded by corporate PAC donations from Facebook, Bank of America, Delta Air Lines, Google, and Goldman Sachs. Impact made two $5,000 donations to Kelly's campaign in May.
Kelly has received bipartisan scrutiny for his financial dealings since launching his Senate bid against incumbent Martha McSally (R., Ariz.). Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) criticized Kelly in March for claiming he would not accept corporate PAC money while still taking corporate dollars for speaking gigs.
"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 [you would] even take that pledge if you're not personally living that."
The Washington Free Beacon reported in July that Kelly made over $1.8 million in speaking fees dating back 18 months. He has delivered 12 speeches since his campaign launched, making $290,400. Some of the corporate speaking gigs were sponsored by Goldman Sachs, Optum, and the Mortgage Bankers Association, according to the Intercept.