Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has made it very clear that the Oval Office is in his sights.
Coming off a six-point reelection victory, the only nonjudicial Democrat to win in Ohio in 2018, Brown has been working behind the scenes to build the infrastructure, support, and endorsements necessary to mount a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020.
However, the third-term Democrat’s presidential campaign may already be over before its even been announced.
With as many as 30 Democrats reportedly considering 2020 presidential runs, some of the most visible progressive legislators have inadvertently sent stringent political litmus tests that will leave many contenders in a difficult position.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), and other assertively progressive candidates have made public overtures about the evil and corrupting nature of high dollar fundraising, special interest group funds, PAC’s, Super PAC’s, and other forms of corporate backing. Most of these candidates tout their reelection successes through only small individual donations as evidence of how unnecessary these election tools are. These candidates are now condemning any candidate, Democrat or Republican, who accepts funding from these entities.
In 2016, a major talking point for Sanders’ presidential campaign was that his average campaign donation was $27, as opposed to former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton whose average donation was $2,700, the legal maximum. At one point, the beleaguered candidate began running fundraising emails, asking for $1 donations. The attempt backfired to the embarrassment of the campaign as most felt this was a naked attempt to bring down her average dollar donations. With this hardline set, potential candidates like Brown are already at a disadvantage.
In 2018, Brown took over half a million dollars from lobbyists, the third most of any senator, Democrat or Republican. Over $200,000 of that money came directly from venture capital firms; some of the most derided financial institutions by Democrats. Yet, in spite of this, Brown has widely criticized the financial industry, saying:
We need to change how we think about the economy – CEOs don’t drive the economy. Workers do.
While this populist rhetoric has found fertile ground in many areas nationwide, he has put himself in a very precarious position in which the more puritanical Democratic challengers may paint him as a hypocrite.
Republicans have been quick to seize on this discrepancy. RNC Spokesperson Mandi Merritt released a statement blasting Brown, calling him;
…the ultimate hypocrite, touting his ‘populist’ image while simultaneously pocketing millions from the very industries he claims to fight against. As his party continues to clamor for a 2020 candidate who will support the latest trends of Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sherrod Brown faces a big-money predicament.”
This problem extends far beyond Brown. Of the top ten recipients of lobbying funds, nine were Democrats and one was Republican. Former President Barack Obama received millions from corporate backers and high dollar donors, which will all be used to attack former Vice President Joe Biden, should he decide to run.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].
Photo “Sherrod Brown” by Sherrod Brown.
Background Photo “Wall Street” by South Bend Voice. CC BY 2.0.