Porter attacks Schiff for taking ‘dirty money.’ His response? ‘I gave that money to you’


Irvine Rep. Katie Porter has repeatedly attacked her top Democratic rival in California’s 2024 Senate race, Burbank Rep. Adam B. Schiff, for accepting campaign contributions from oil, pharmaceutical, financial and other influential special interests trying to sway federal policy in Washington.

She prided herself on not taking donations from corporate political action committees, unlike Schiff, who along with Republican former baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is leading in the polls as Tuesday’s primary election fast approaches.

“Representative Schiff may have prosecuted big oil companies before he came to Congress, but when he got to Congress he cashed checks from companies like [British Petroleum] — from fossil fuel companies,” she said at a debate in January.

“I have delivered results on climate in my few years in Congress.”

Schiff, who took $2,000 total from the BP North American Employee PAC in 2004 and 2006, responded curtly during that debate. Schiff said he used some of the millions he raised through the years to help Porter in her congressional campaigns.

“I gave that money to you, Katie Porter, and the only response was thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The Times analyzed campaign finance reports from three election cycles when Porter and Schiff overlapped in Congress to see if the candidates’ claims were true. Both have been prodigious fundraisers for their own campaigns, raising tens of millions of dollars, while also starting political action committees that they used to support other candidates.

Here’s what we found:

Defense, tech and pharmaceutical companies donated money to Schiff

Schiff’s committees reported 377 contributions from corporate PACs, according to a Times analysis. The Schiff for Congress campaign committee received 357 contributions and Frontline USA, his leadership PAC, reported 20, totaling $636,625 and $75,000, respectively.

The more than 80 corporate PAC donors included defense, tech and telecommunications companies, which were the industries that gave the most to his committee.

The corporate PAC representing Comcast Corp. and NBCUniversal contributed more than $40,000. Schiff also received money from committees representing Wells Fargo and Amgen, among many others, during his House elections.

“I didn’t realize how much dirty money you’ve took until I was running against you,” Porter said at that same debate.

“You need to own your record.”

A majority of corporate PAC donations to Frontline USA came from groups representing defense companies, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. Frontline also received donations from PACs representing Amazon, Universal Music Group and Centene Corp. — a large insurer.

Schiff donated over $50,000 to Porter

A Times analysis of Federal Election Commission records found that throughout her election and reelection campaigns for the House of Representatives, Porter received $54,675 in campaign contributions from Schiff’s two committees.

The majority of this money came from individual donors who used Frontline USA as a conduit to donate to Porter’s campaign; the PAC gave more than $33,000 in contributions to Porter’s races in 2018, 2020 and 2022.

In May 2020, Schiff texted Porter after a fundraiser about one donation, according to messages Schiff’s campaign shared with The Times.

“Hi Katie, sending $5,475 more from my friends Dick and Lois Gunther. Keep up the great work and see you soon,” Schiff wrote on May 14, 2020.

“Thank you so much Adam. Your (sic) are great! I’m doing handwritten thank yous that mention you to these folks,” she wrote back days later.

“(I do a lot of handwritten notes and like to acknowledge the source).”

Frontline USA reported two earmarked donations for Porter from the couple in May 2020 totaling the amount. The couple also sent $5,600 to Porter’s campaign three months earlier.

Schiff’s campaign estimates that the Senate candidate helped Porter raise close to $240,000 since she first ran in 2018. Much of this money, according to Schiff’s campaign, came from fundraising solicitations he sent on her behalf and fundraisers he hosted.

It’s hard to avoid corporate money in politics

Schiff’s corporate donations, which Porter hates, flow into a much larger pool of cash that’s made up of individual donations. The money is indistinguishable when it’s donated to Porter but reflects how money from corporate special interests can make its way into the accounts of someone who decries them.

Porter’s congressional contests were high-priced affairs, and the majority of the millions she raised came from individual contributors. She has refused to accept campaign donations from corporate PACs throughout her political career. When Schiff entered the Senate contest last year, he promised to not take money from these groups, too.

The majority of fundraising by Schiff’s committees similarly comes from individual contributions. For Frontline USA, contributions from non-political party committees — including corporate PACs, along with labor, trade and other groups — comprised 11% and 3% of its total receipts for the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, respectively.

“Part of my job was to help elect Democrats — help them get reelected,” Schiff said about his national fundraising work.

When asked about Schiff’s fundraising history, Porter didn’t see trying to help Democrats as a good justification for taking money from special interests actively trying to influence Congress.

After winning in 2018, Porter created her own leadership political committee called Truth to Power PAC, which has raised a little more than $1 million since its inception. Most of the money came from individual donors, and close to $630,000 was doled out to candidates across the country who were in competitive races, according to Porter senior advisor Nathan Click.

It didn’t take money from corporate political action committees.

“Katie didn’t have to reach her hand out to the likes of BP oil or defense contractors or corporate payday lenders in order to help her Democratic colleagues, but Adam did,” Click said.


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