A national campaign finance and election reform group on Thursday endorsed U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet's bid for a third term, noting that the Colorado Democrat is the only senator seeking re-election in 2022 who doesn't raise contributions from corporate PACs or federal lobbyists.
End Citizens United and Let America Vote lauded the lawmaker's record of backing reforms aimed at reducing the role of big money in politics, ending partisan gerrymandering and protecting the right to vote.
“Senator Bennet is one of the most outspoken voices in Washington against the corrupting influence of Big Money in politics and protecting the freedom to vote,” said Tiffany Muller, president of the two groups, which merged at the beginning of last year, in a statement.
“Throughout his tenure in the Senate, he has consistently worked to limit the influence of corporate special interests and lobbyists so that the voices of everyday Coloradans are heard," she said. "We’re proud to endorse Sen. Bennet and we look forward to helping him win in 2022. We need to hold onto democracy reform champions like Michael Bennet, and the battle for Senate control runs right through Colorado.”
The groups pointed to Bennet's co-sponsorship of legislation including the For the People Act, a massive election reform package currently in the Senate, and bills to require expenditure disclosure for political ads. He's also sponsored a bill that would permanently ban federal lawmakers from lobbying after they leave Congress and a lobbing reform measure dubbed the Clean Politics Act.
Bennet hasn't drawn a serious Republican challenger yet, though 2018 GOP congressional nominee Peter Yu formed an exploratory committee for a Senate run in April. Colorado doesn't rank high on any election forecaster's list of next year's Senate battlegrounds.
If he wins next year, Bennet will be the first Colorado senator elected to a third term in more than 50 years.
Bennet accepted the endorsement in a statement made available first to Colorado Politics.
"I am the only senator running for re-election who isn't taking a cent from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists because if we are going to take the influence of big money out of politics and restore our democracy, we need to lead by example," he said.
"I am glad to have the support of End Citizens United and Let America Vote because we have to stand up for exercise in self-government and hand our kids and grandkids a democracy in stronger shape than we found it."
Bennet reported raising more than $1.2 million in the year's first quarter and finished the period with about the same amount in the bank. Around 90% of the donations for the quarter were below $200, his campaign said.
Joseph Jackson, the executive director of the Colorado Republican Party, scoffed at the endorsement, pointing out that Bennet has benefited from millions of dollars in corporate PAC donations since he began fundraising for his campaigns.
“Michael Bennet has accepted over $6 million in PAC contributions throughout his career," Jackson said. "This is Washington D.C. hypocrisy at its worst and Colorado voters will see through it.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Bennet banked around $4.5 million from corporate and business PACs and about $424,000 from labor PACs for his successful 2010 and 2016 campaigns.
He's also raised just over $1.1 million from ideological PACs, including leadership PACs run by fellow lawmakers and groups devoted to various issues, such as the Sierra Club and End Citizens United.
Bennet's endorsement lands the same day as the groups are throwing their first round of support behind four Democratic senators facing competitive races next year — Arizona's Mark Kelly, Georgia's Raphael Warnock, New Hampshire's Maggie Hassan and Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto.
The reform groups count more than 4 million members nationwide, including 160,000 in Colorado, and are entirely funded by small-dollar donations, averaging $14 a pop, a spokesman said. Altogether, the groups spent $24.3 million supporting House and Senate candidates in the last cycle.