A progressive dark-money group hitting politicians over ties to corporate interests on Monday released an ad against Democratic Rep. Richie Neal of Massachusetts, accusing him of working to maintain President Donald Trump’s corporate tax cuts and highlighting his ties to the private equity firm, Blackstone.
“After Donald Trump cut corporate taxes, one of the wealthiest Wall Street firms, Blackstone, now pays nothing in federal taxes,” the new ad says. “Richie Neal introduced a bill that maintains Trump’s corporate tax cuts. Now, Blackstone is Richie Neal’s top funder. And one of Donald Trump’s too. Corporate power is corrupting Democracy. And Richie Neal is part of the problem.”
Trump’s 2017 tax bill reduced the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. Democrats campaigned on rolling back the cuts, but when Neal, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, introduced legislation last summer expanding tax cuts for low-income families, it didn’t touch the corporate tax rate.
Individuals from Blackstone have given $48,600 to Neal’s campaign this cycle, making the company his top contributor so far, out of a total haul of more than $3 million. Individuals from the group started giving to Neal in large amounts in 2019, HuffPost reported.
Released by Fight Corporate Monopolies, a political nonprofit founded by the anti-monopoly American Economic Liberties Project, the ad is the second this month going after Neal for his ties to Blackstone. In the first ad, the group criticized him for “protecting Blackstone’s profits” by helping to kill a bill to stop surprise medical billing last year. Neal’s campaign told HuffPost that he introduced his own bill on the issue and that the original bill would have hurt hospitals in his district. The group announced that it would spend a total of $300,000 on TV ads targeting Neal in his district. They spent $150,000 on the first ad buy, which will run for another week, and are putting another $150,000 into the second ad buy, starting Monday.
Former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir is consulting for the group, which has so far only spent money on ads about Neal. Shakir said the group intends to focus on other races, such as those for attorney general, state legislative office, and other down-ballot seats, in primaries and in November general elections. (Shakir is married to Sarah Miller, the executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project.)
As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group, Fight Corporate Monopolies is not required to disclose its donors. Shakir declined to share who its donors are, stating that they have asked to remain anonymous but that a number of progressive foundations have contributed funds.
Morgan Harper, a Justice Democrats-backed candidate who unsuccessfully challenged Ohio Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty in April, is a senior adviser to the group.
“President Trump’s tax cuts did little for Richie Neal’s constituents, but they mean everything to the corporations backing his campaign,” Harper said in a statement. “Neal’s habit of putting corporate profits above people’s needs will only continue if he isn’t held accountable.”
In a statement, Neal’s campaign defended his work on the tax bill and went after Fight Corporate Monopolies, as well as Alex Morse, Neal’s primary challenger. “Fight Corporate Monopolies is a dark money shill for Alex Morse’s campaign, which we know because they have only targeted Richie and never let the truth get in the way of an attack ad,” spokesperson Kate Norton said in a statement. “The Economic Mobility Act is the most significant pro-work, poverty-reducing tax bill in at least a decade, period. This is the latest attempt to distract from Alex Morse’s failed record managing Holyoke.”
Alex Morse, mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, who is also backed by Justice Democrats, as well as Indivisible and the Sunrise Movement, is running to unseat Neal in the September 1 primary. His campaign has raised $518,880 so far and is highlighting Neal’s refusal to support Medicare for All or a Green New Deal. Morse has also gone after Neal for dragging his feet on trying to force Trump to release his tax returns, an issue that has drawn criticism from constituents as well. (The Supreme Court sent the issue back down to lower courts earlier this month.) Morse, who is rejecting corporate political action committee money, is also highlighting Neal’s corporate donors.
Neal is one of a number of powerful Democrats with strong ties to corporate interests and accepted the most corporate campaign money last year, Sludge reported. He has also been one of the Democratic caucus’s most stalwart opponents of Medicare for All. After a historic Rules Committee hearing last April on single-payer legislation, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal secured a second hearing on the measure last June in front of the more powerful Ways and Means Committee. Ahead of that hearing, Neal urged his colleagues to avoid using the phrase “Medicare for All,” The Intercept reported.
Update: July 13, 2020, 11:59 a.m. ET
This article has been updated to include a statement from Neal’s campaign.