Dec. 22, 2019
U.S. Rep. Ami Bera connected to Mayor Pete’s “wine cave,”
but has far more embarrassing fundraising bed fellows
SACRAMENTO — In one short week, Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s closed-door Napa Valley fundraiser has turned an ultra-luxurious “wine cave” into a symbol for politicians who care little about where and from whom they build their political war chests.
But Buttigieg is hardly the lone politician to visit that basement cash register and enjoy super-rich money-for-access parties. The Daily Beast, L.A. Magazine and The Washington Examiner reports 100 other Democrats have done similarly, including Sacramento’s U.S. Rep. Ami Bera. But Jeff Burdick – Bera’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming March 3rd Congressional primary – says Bera’s fundraising embarrassments go far beyond posh parties in a wine cave.
“It’s no surprise Bera would drive to Napa Valley to schmooze with corporations and rich political donors. His entire political career is built on accessing big donations wherever he can find them. Such money, though, significantly dilutes the voice and influence his ‘voting’ constituents in our 7th Congressional District get to enjoy in D.C.,” Burdick said.
According to OpenSecrets.org, only 20% of Bera’s nearly $20 million in career donations have come from inside California’s 7th Congressional District. Bera has even raised more money from Chicago ($292,000) than from Yolo County ($287,000).
In contrast, Burdick has taken the most principled campaign-finance pledge in the nation. Not only is he refusing donations from all corporations and PACs, Burdick will accept no donations from any individual who doesn’t live in the 7th Congressional Districts. This pledge is also a core tenet of his proposed non-partisan Election Reform Constitutional Amendment.
“Our corrupting campaign finance system is the basic cause of everything that’s broken in D.C. It’s the cause of gridlock, our extreme partisan divide, industry after industry having veto rights over legislation, and Congress’ low approval rates,” he said. “This is also why voters are continuing to unaffiliate from both major parties in record numbers. They are sick of it.”
Burdick said Bera provides an easy illustration of the major contradictions our current fundraising system create in most politicians. For example, despite Bera being a medical doctor, he’s taken huge amounts of money from some very medically suspect sources. These include:
Nearly $50,000 from the nation’s largest and most sued opioid makers and distributors – despite Sacramento suffering from a opioids death rate twice the state average;
More than a $1.1 million from Big Pharma, insurance companies and the corporate health care industry who’ve long fought lowering health costs and improving health outcomes;
At least $16,500 in career PAC money from PG&E, whose corporate malfeasance at preventing fires contributed to the deaths of more than a hundred people in just the last three years. (Bera even accepted a PG&E donation this year.);
At least $66,000 in career PAC contributions from the sugar industry, making Bera one of that industry’s largest recipients; and
Last election cycle, he accepted donations from all the large fast-food chains.
Given these donations, Burdick said it’s no surprise Bera remains critical of Obamacare and opposes Medicare for All. It also may explain why he does not favor true comprehensive drug cost reform and why in 2016 at the height of the opioid epidemic Bera voted to weaken the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s enforcement power over the drug industry.
“Every elected politician swears big donations never affect their votes, but no voter believes this,” he said. “But whether corporate medicine bought Bera’s position or he’s always believed Americans should just put up with the most expensive and least effective health care system in the developed world, Bera’s opposition to Medicare for All does not reflect what 72% of Democrats and 55% of Independents favor.”
Burdick estimates his proposed 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution would remove 80% of the money in federal elections. The amendment would also reverse the Citizens United ruling, ban gerrymandering and end corporate personhood.
“These are all issues the Supreme Court has refused to address or made worse. This leaves a citizen-led Constitutional Amendment effort our last hope to save democratic values,” Burdick said. “Only with such an effort can we end the sight of so many politicians like Bera hanging out under Swarovski crystals in that Napa Valley wine cave.”
And for details about Bera’s opioid donations – and Burdick’s call for Bera to donate an amount equal to this to local addiction recovery programs – see this news release.
Jeff Burdick is a Progressive Democrat and resident of Arden-Arcade. To arrange an interview, call 916-200-5165 or visit BurdickForCongress.com.