Sludge produces analytic journalism on lobbying and money in politics. The American Prospect is republishing this article.
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One of the best bourgeois Democrats in the House has a primary challenger, and the adverse couldn’t be added stark.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, an eight-term adumbrative from southern Texas and a affiliate of the bourgeois Dejected Dog Coalition, has an A appraisement from the National Rifle Association, holds anti-abortion views, and has, like Admiral Donald Trump, associated undocumented immigrants with rapists and murderers.
He’s been dubbed “Big Oil’s admired Democrat,” and the appellation fits: Not alone has Cuellar consistently voted for the oil and gas industry’s interests, but the PACs of oil and gas corporations accept showered his campaigns with money.
In the aboriginal nine months of this year, Cuellar’s attack received over $100,000 from 28 accumulated PACs in the oil and gas industry, according to an assay by the Center for Responsive Politics, authoritative Cuellar the House’s biggest almsman of oil and gas PAC donations in the 2020 acclamation cycle, alike aloft Republican reps from his oil-rich accompaniment of Texas. Alone two associates of Congress—both senators—have accustomed added oil and gas PAC money than Cuellar in 2019. In the 2018 cycle, Cuellar took in $183,000 from accumulated PACs in the activity and accustomed assets sector, including $143,500 from oil and gas.
Cuellar’s 2019 donors board the PAC of Koch Industries, which, forth with its billionaire CEO Charles Koch, tends to accounts altitude change-denying Republicans as against to Democrats. Cuellar is a regular recipient of Koch Industries’ PAC money. Anadarko Petroleum PAC and Valero Activity PAC accept both already maxed out to Cuellar for the primary and accepted elections, anniversary giving his attack $10,000.
Texas’ 28th Congressional Commune is absolutely blue, accepting gone for Hillary Clinton by 20 credibility in 2016, and is not advised a aggressive accepted acclamation chase in 2020 by the Cook Political Report.
Cuellar has faced alone one primary adversary back acceptable a affiliate of Congress in 2005. His accepted challenger, 26-year-old clearing and animal rights advocate Jessica Cisneros, is a advocate who supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and a $15 minimum wage. Her belvedere has becoming her a cardinal of endorsements from key accelerating groups such as MoveOn, the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Action, and the Alive Families Party, as able-bodied as from newer advocate organizations Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement. In addition, Cisneros has denticulate endorsements from accelerating stars Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)
Cisneros “represents the choir we so badly charge in Congress appropriate now—millennial, working-class, Latina, first-generation immigrant, and a adventurous best for a accelerating agenda,” Alexandra Rojas, controlling administrator of Justice Democrats, told Sludge. “We charge Democrats who action for the party’s voters, not big accumulated and Republican donors. Cuellar is absolutely what’s amiss with our party, and [Cisneros] represents the achievement of what it can be. She’s allotment of a ascent bearing of administration who is committed to angry for solutions as big as the problems we face.”
“We accustomed Jessica because Henry Cuellar represents all that’s amiss with Washington,” Stephen O’Hanlon, communications administrator of the Sunrise Movement, told Sludge. “Jessica Cisneros, on the added hand, is accessible to action for the Green New Deal and isn’t demography a cent of accumulated PAC or lobbyist money.”
Perhaps best allegorical of the all-inclusive abysm amid the two candidates are their attack finances. Cuellar has aloft hundreds of bags of dollars from accumulated PACs with about no baby donations of $200 or beneath from individuals, while Cisneros rejects all accumulated PAC money, and her 2019 booty is codicillary on baby contributions.
Cisneros, who launched her attack in June, aloft $465,000 through September, about all of it advancing from alone donations. Fifty-four percent of the money she aloft from individuals came in the anatomy of baby donations of $200 or less. For Cuellar, aloof 1.4% of his $514,000 account of alone donations came in baby form, while 56%, or about $290,000, came from contributions of $2,000 or more.
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“We represent a actual poor, bankrupt district,” Cuellar attack agent Colin Strother told Sludge. “We don’t ask them for money because if they’ve got an added 10 bucks laying about [they accept added things to absorb it on].”
The agent has accustomed 66 alone donations of $2,800, the best accustomed bulk per election.
Individual Cuellar donors board oil and gas developer Thomas Gates, who gave $2,800; David Killum, Jr., managing accomplice at Killum Oil Aggregation ($2,600); Alfonso Arguindegui, CEO of AOC Holding Company, which owns Arguindegui Oil Companies ($1,000); ConocoPhillips lobbying administrator Kevin Avery, who recommended a aide for a job in Scott Pruitt’s Ecology Protection Bureau ($500) as it took afar Obama-era regulations; and Bill Skeen, a absolute acreage administrator at Fasken Oil and Ranch ($500).
Strother says Cuellar gets about one-quarter of his attack allotment from in-district sources and claims that Cisneros gets best of her contributions from alfresco the district. Through September, Cuellar had almost 330 itemized alone donors—those whose anecdotic advice is disclosed—and 15 unitemized donations of $200 or beneath via online fundraising belvedere ActBlue. Cisneros had about 230 itemized alone donors and 332 unitemized donations through ActBlue, acceptation she acceptable had abounding added altered alone donors than Cuellar.
Like abounding added Democrats, Cisneros has apprenticed to adios money from accumulated PACs, which admiral and added highly-paid advisers of the companies tend to fund. Valero Activity PAC, for example, has aloft 87% of its 2019 funds so far (nearly $500,000) from advisers who listed their occupations as CEO, carnality president, controlling carnality president, attorney, counsel, controlling director, director, accepted manager, manager, superintendent, or supervisor.
Cisneros alive the No Deposit Ammunition Money Pledge, which requires her to adios ample contributions from deposit ammunition PACs, top executives, and lobbyists. Ecology advance accumulation 350 Action supports the agreement and accustomed Cisneros. She appears to accept one donor in the deposit ammunition industry, a tax administrator at electric and accustomed gas account Direct Energy, who gave $500 total. Her alone accession from a non-individual appropriately far came from the Justice Democrats PAC ($5,000).
“We’re committed to alive a attack ashore in our ethics and adjourned by grassroots individuals angry for accurate representation for South Texas,” Cisneros told Sludge. “Voters in Texas’ 28th commune accept a bright best amid a accurate people-powered applicant against a corporate-backed bounden who isn’t confined the needs of his constituents. Aloof booty a attending at the bags of dollars in accumulated PAC contributions my adversary accustomed aftermost quarter—you’ll see who he’s alive for.”
Cuellar’s almanac on the ambiance matches his industry support. His votes in favor of oil and gas industry priorities accept becoming him a 42% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, lower than the account accustomed by several House Republicans.
In 2015, the agent played a analytical role in accepting the ban on awkward oil exports lifted. Alive with above Republican Rep. Joe Barton, additionally of Texas, Cuellar assertive the Democratic House administration to abide aloof on a bill to abolition the ban, not acute their conclave associates to vote no. “It would not accept happened after Cuellar’s alive leadership,” wrote Barton.
Cuellar was one of the aboriginal assembly to accompany the Congressional Oil and Gas Caucus, which adolescent Dejected Dog Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) founded in 2017. Vela and the conclave “advocate the allowances of absolutely harnessing America’s accustomed resources” and “assure that there is abutment on this ancillary of the alley for the oil and gas industry.”
Meanwhile, U.S. oil, natural gas, and petroleum products exports abide to increase, and altitude predictions get added dire.
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“Things are accepting worse,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary Accepted of the Apple Meteorological Organization. “It’s added burning than anytime to advance with mitigation…The alone band-aid is to get rid of deposit fuels in ability production, industry and transportation.”
“It’s simple: If bodies like Cuellar accumulate calling the shots on altitude policy, it’s a afterlife book for millions of bodies in the U.S. and about the world,” said O’Hanlon. “The latest UN altitude letters are clear—to stop the affliction of altitude change, we charge to stop accretion deposit ammunition basement immediately, but Cuellar continues to advance for the exact adverse at the bidding of his big donors.
The Green New Deal resolution from Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), which Cisneros supports, is advised to actualize millions of jobs in the activity sector. It establishes a federal job agreement and “high-quality abutment jobs that pay prevailing wages, hires bounded workers, offers training and advance opportunities, and guarantees allowance and account adequation for workers afflicted by the transition.” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) Green New Deal plan claims it will actualize 20 actor jobs through a “just transition” for deposit ammunition workers that will “guarantee bristles years of a worker’s accepted salary, apartment assistance, job training, bloom care, alimony support, and antecedence job adjustment for any displaced worker, as able-bodied as aboriginal retirement abutment for those who accept it or can no best work.”
Still, Cuellar attack agent Colin Strother calls the Green New Deal “a absurdity and a bogie tale,” emphasizing that oil and gas jobs in the 28th District, which sits aloft a above shale gas formation, are essential. “For us it’s a really, absolutely altered calculus back so abounding jobs are on the line,” he told Sludge.
“We tend to be added focused on the ambiance against the climate,” Strother said, acceptation Cuellar is added anxious with apple-pie rivers, air, and wildlife than with preventing added greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.
Strother told Sludge that Cuellar believes “110%” that bodies account altitude change and the oil and gas industry is deepening it. Cuellar has accurate some wind and solar projects but takes an “all-of-the-above” access to energy, absorbing bashful altitude remedies advantaged by some Republicans, such as carbon abduction technology, that don’t arrest oil and gas assembly and combustion. Strother said “the activity companies charge to absorb [more] on accepting bigger at how they analyze and how they remediate and how they assure the ambiance in the action of their delivery.”
Strother claims that eliminating deposit ammunition jobs would “take that money abroad from schools.” But he said that he and Cuellar accept never discussed the abeyant costs of ascent altitude change, which will board remediating adverse ecology destruction, alleviative people’s added bloom problems, and massive basement spending. One peer-reviewed assay predicts that altitude change could end up costing the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
Asked if there would anytime appear a time back altitude abolition in his commune could alert Cuellar to accede the charge to anticipate added carbon and methane from entering the atmosphere, Strother said, “I don’t know. It’s not a affair that he’s an able in.”
“Cuellar and politicians like him on both abandon of the alley aren’t aloof acutely out of blow with Democrats, they’re acutely out of blow with the absoluteness of the crisis,” said Rojas, who, like Cisneros, is in her mid-twenties and is one of abounding adolescent progressives who attending into the approaching and feel the coercion of the present. “Corporate and deposit ammunition antechamber money has besmirched our political arrangement and endangered the bloom and assurance of our communities and planet.”
While Cuellar is a allurement for deposit ammunition donations, his better donor this aeon isn’t in the activity business. Admiral and the PAC of clandestine bastille behemothic GEO Accumulation accept accumulated to give over $46,000 to Cuellar’s attack and administration PAC this year. Few donors accept accustomed to the administration PAC, Texas Aboriginal PAC, this year, but those who accept board GEO Accumulation CEO George Zoley, the GEO Accumulation PAC, and an controlling of Killam Oil Company, which is based in Cuellar’s district.
As with the oil and gas industry contributions, the Cuellar campaign’s $36,200 from the GEO Accumulation PAC and advisers this aeon makes Cuellar the biggest almsman of GEO Accumulation donations in the House.
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GEO Accumulation operates at atomic one facility in Texas’ 28th Congressional District, which contains about 300 afar of acreage adjoining Mexico: the Rio Grande Processing Center in Laredo. The company’s Central Regional Office is amid in San Antonio, some of which is allotment of the district.
CoreCivic, a GEO Accumulation competitor, operates its Webb County Apprehension Center and Laredo Processing Center in Cuellar’s commune as well. The Tennessee-based aggregation had not donated to Cuellar’s 2020 attack as of Sept. 30 of this year, but it has consistently done so in accomplished acclamation cycles.
Cuellar has dedicated his GEO Accumulation donations and offered abutment for the clandestine bastille industry. “Because ICE does not own apprehension centers, they await aloft clandestine apprenticed accessories to board the ample citizenry of developed bent aliens,” he told this columnist aftermost year for TYT. “Without them, rapists, murderers, and added offenders would not be confined and instead present a bright blackmail to our communities.”
The Cuellar attack website promotes his role in accepting added allotment for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, generally the aboriginal government bureau that undocumented immigrants and cover seekers encounter, which will pay for 600 new officers, “innovative non-intrusive imaging accessories and added basset teams.”
Cisneros has alleged on her adversary to donate the money his attack has accustomed from clandestine bastille PACs to organizations that advice immigrant communities.
In accession to deposit ammunition and clandestine bastille donations, the Cuellar attack accustomed abundant contributions from the PACs of companies in an arrangement of industries, including the automotive, defense, finance, fast food, bloom insurance, payday lending, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco industries.
“Nothing has been added wholesome for the backroom and the government of our country than the added accord of women,” wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her 2008 book, “Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters.”
Despite Cuellar’s action positions that abhorrence abundant of the Democratic coalition, Pelosi, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), and the Democratic Congressional Attack Committee (DCCC), which Bustos leads, are afraid with him. The enactment is abetment all bounden Democrats, additionally including addition bourgeois aborticide opponent, Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, who also has a accelerating woman challenger.
The DCCC’s own fundraising disclosures acknowledge that it relies on abounding of the aforementioned accumulated interests that accept helped Cuellar aggregate a added than $3.2 actor attack warchest. Sludge and Maplight accept appear on the numerous corporate lobbyist bundlers who represent bloom affliction and deposit ammunition companies and accommodate the alignment with tens of bags of dollars account of checks anniversary month.
The DCCC is so committed to acknowledging incumbents that in March it accustomed a banish action for political consultants. Any adviser or close that affairs with an bounden representative’s primary amateur will be cut off from party-directed business.
The action has hurt accelerating challengers, generally women, and taken business away from affectionate consultants.
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“Cuellar votes like a Republican. He takes deposit ammunition PAC money like a Republican. It’s cool that Democratic leaders are continuing by Cuellar back there is a bright alternative: a adolescent woman of blush alive on accelerating values,” said O’Hanlon. “It gets to the basis of why the Democratic enactment has bootless our generation: They are added anxious with authoritative big donors adequate than allowance out alive bodies who are struggling.”
The DCCC’s abutment for incumbents such as Cuellar and Lipinski “says that we accept a continued way to go in ridding the Democratic Affair of the access of accumulated money in our democracy,” said Rojas. “It additionally says that Democratic administration is acutely out of blow with what the abject of the affair absolutely wants—which are solutions that bout the scale, scope, and coercion of the crisis adverse us.”
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