Midterms

Sharice Davids wants to curb money in politics while she’s raising big dollars

Democrat Sharice Davids is hosting a panel Saturday about curbing the influence of special interest dollars in politics.

She’s leading a letter-writing campaign involving 100 House Democratic candidates calling for Congress to address the “corrosive role money and special interests have played in shaking the American people’s faith in the system.”

But at the same time, the Kansas Democratic House candidate is enjoying a campaign contribution bonanza and a flood of outside money from Democratic-leaning groups.

Davids’ campaign raked in more than $2.7 million from July through September, an amount more than double what Republican rival Rep. Kevin Yoder raised during the same period.

Her candidacy has also benefited from nearly $990,000 in spending from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and nearly $350,000 in spending from the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund.

Earlier this year, Davids prevailed in the six-way Democratic primary after Women Vote!, the political action committee for EMILY’s List, a group that works to elect progressive women, spent nearly $700,000 on ads highlighting Davids’ biography as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter who went onto serve as a White House fellow.

None of her primary opponents benefited from similar outside spending, and Women Vote! has continued to spend money on the Johnson County Democrat’s behalf, steering nearly $400,000 into the race since the August primary.

At the same time, Davids is making ending the influence of money and politics a big campaign theme.

Davids Friday did not directly address the role money has had in boosting her candidacy, but said in a statement that the “problem right now is that special interests like Wall Street and insurance companies have far too much power over politicians.”

Saturday, she’ll host the panel decrying big money in politics. Tiffany Muller, the president and executive director of End Citizens United, will be among those appearing with Davids at the Matt Ross Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas.

End Citizens United has endorsed Davids over Yoder.

“There is absolutely too much money in our political system, but there is only one candidate in this race who is working to fix it and that’s Sharice,” Muller said in a statement.

Outside groups have spent more than $6 million in the race.

Davids’ quest to curb the influence of money in politics is ironic given the role outside spending had in boosting her during the primary, said Kelly Kultala, who managed Democratic rival Sylvia Williams’ unsuccessful campaign for the nomination.

“It was clear that Women Vote! had a significant role in helping her win the primary,” said Kultala, the party’s 2014 nominee for the seat who said she still backs Davids over Yoder.

C.J. Grover, Yoder’s spokesman, said in a statement that Davids’ “entire candidacy has been propped up by millions of dollars in liberal special interest money, much of which comes straight from Wall Street.”

Davis Hammet, a Topeka activist who will participate in the panel, said he wants Davids to address how she’ll navigate the tension comes from opposing money in politics while also benefiting from it.

“It’s how this system is set up. Your life is easy if you bend to special interests. I think she has a strong enough character that I don’t think she’ll fold to special interests,” Hammet said. “It’s built to corrupt people. It’s literally corruption by design.”

Yoder, who has consistently voted against legislation that would require greater disclosure of political spending, has also benefited from significant outside money in the race.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has spent nearly $2.6 million in support of the Overland Park Republican even as other GOP groups have retreated from the race.

Davids’ campaign said in a release promoting the Saturday event that the bulk of the money she has raised has been from small donors with an average donation of $35 during the period. Yoder has faced scrutiny for receiving roughly half of his campaign money from political action committees, the release noted.

Bryan Lowry: 202-383-6167, @BryanLowry3
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