TX-28: CREDO Action Goes After Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) For Accepting Donations From The Koch Brothers

Received this e-mail today from CREDO Action:

We've known for a long time that the Koch brothers – the billionaire donors who run an international oil, chemical and manufacturing conglomerate – bankroll Republican campaigns and fund shady Super PACs to further corporatist conservative interests.

So it's troubling to learn that long-time Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar eagerly accepts thousands in campaign contributions from the same mega-donors who spend hundreds of millions funding climate deniers, Tea Party extremists, right-wing judges and a whole host of dangerous anti-worker and anti-environment policies.1

No Democrat should ever accept donations from the largest funders of fossil fuel interests and right-wing hate. We must speak out now to hold Rep. Cuellar accountable.

Tell Rep. Cuellar: Stop accepting Koch money and return donations immediately. Click here to sign the petition.

Known as “Big Oil's favorite Democrat,” Rep. Cuellar has accepted hundreds of thousands from the oil and gas industry, and in 2018 alone, he received more than $140,000 from fossil fuel PACs.2,3 In addition to consistent donations from the Kochs, Cuellar was the second-largest recipient of campaign cash in the House of Representatives from the GEO Group, a private prison company getting rich off jailing immigrants and separating families.4

While Rep. Cuellar promises that political donations from conservative interests don't affect his actions as a member of Congress, his voting record tells another story. In the last Congress, Cueller voted with Donald Trump nearly 70% of the time.5 He's received an “A” rating from the NRA and voted to fund Trump's border wall while publicly opposing it.6,7

Unsurprisingly, Cuellar is an outspoken supporter of the fossil fuel industry, backs increased drilling, fracking and oil exports and does little to address climate change in Congress. As Waleed Shahid, from CREDO-ally Justice Democrats, put it, Cuellar “does not have a plan to tackle climate change. He has a plan to continue receiving money from his wealthy donors…You can’t take money from [the fossil fuel industry] and then try to hold them accountable. It just doesn’t work.”8

If Rep. Cuellar refuses to hold the fossil fuel industry to account, we must hold him accountable for taking Koch money and voting for their anti-climate, oil and gas interests in Congress. Will you join us to demand that Rep. Cuellar stop accepting Koch donations and return the tens of thousands he's already received? Click the link below to sign the petition:

https://act.credoaction.com/sign/cuellar-koch?t=9&akid=32895%2E2512583%2EyCfOR4

Thank you for speaking out.

Josh Nelson, Co-Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

References:

  1. Alex Kotch, “Conservative Democrat Continues to Take Koch Cash,” Sludge, May 20, 2019.
  2. Josh Magness, “Big Oil’s favorite Democrat? Texas lawmaker’s votes reflect industry interests,” McClatchy, May 15, 2017.
  3. Open Secrets, Donations to Rep. Henry Cuellar from Political Action Committees 2017-2018, accessed June 14, 2019.
  4. Open Secrets, Recipients of donations from GEO Group: 2018 Cycle, accessed June 14, 2019.
  5. FiveThirtyEight, Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump: Henry Cuellar, accessed June 14, 2019.
  6. Sonia Smith, “The NRA Spends a Lot of Money on the Texas Congressional Delegation,” Texas Monthly, Feb. 22, 2018.
  7. Kate Aronoff, “Henry Cuellar’s Policy Preferences Could Destroy the World. But Then Again, He’s a Really Nice Guy.” The Intercept, Jan. 19 2019.

Click here to add your name.

FYI, Cuellar has a primary challenger:

A 26-year-old Laredoan, former valedictorian of Early College High School and current immigration and human rights attorney, Jessica Cisneros is announcing her campaign Thursday to run for Congress in 2020 to represent Laredo and the rest of Texas' 28th District, which spans from San Antonio to Mission.

“I'm super excited to finally have the opportunity,” said Cisneros to Laredo Morning Times. “I've been working for it and praying for it, to be able to give back to my community here in South Texas. From a very young age, I've known that I wanted to give back to my community. I've been inspired by the people here in Laredo.”

Cisneros will have the chance to give Laredo's Rep. Henry Cuellar a serious primary challenger in this very blue district, which has solely been represented by Democrats since it was created in 1993.

Cisneros is backed by Justice Democrats, the progressive advocacy group that famously recruited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her successful primary bid to represent New York's 14th congressional district. And Cisneros' platform reflects Justice Democrats' core values, which have become emblematic of the progressive left. According to a release from the Justice Democrats, they include: fixing the U.S. immigration system, ending family separations, opposing the border wall, instating a $15 minimum wage and a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, the end of corporate money influencing elections, free public college, women's health and reproductive rights, gun reform, expanding Social Security, and making the wealthy pay their fair share.

Cisneros has pledged to reject campaign contributions from corporate political action committees and lobbyists.

And Cisneros is a serious opponent:

She blasted Cuellar in the video for being too close to Trump, calling him “Trump’s favorite Democrat.”

“Henry Cuellar voted to defund sanctuary cities and reproductive services for women’s health,” she says in the ad. “He’s received an A rating from the NRA, and he’s accepted thousands of dollars from private prisons and the Koch brothers.

In response, Cuellar political consultant Colin Strother told Texas Monthly that Cuellar welcomed Cisneros to the race. When asked for a comment directly from Cuellar, Strother said, “Due to the heavy workload of serving in leadership and on [the House Appropriations Committee], he is not going to be available to comment on the March primary at this time.”

This apparent Rose Garden strategy makes sense for Cuellar, at least early on, since his advantages as an incumbent are formidable. He has  $3 million in his campaign fund, a fundraising network lubricated by his membership on the House Appropriations Committee, and a strong family presence in his base of Webb County, where his brother is sheriff. Moreover, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has enacted an incumbent-protection policy that prevents vendors or consultants from doing business with the DCCC if they work on behalf of a challenger to a sitting member of the House.

None of that is apparently discouraging Cisneros. “For me it was a very easy decision,” she told Texas Monthly. “South Texas deserves better.” She claimed to have already raised $30,000 from small donors in just six hours following her announcement, significantly more than the amount Cuellar garnered from small individual contributors during the entire 2018 selection cycle ($5,833). Since graduating law school last year, Cisneros worked in immigration law in New York but has returned to Laredo to campaign full-time. She bristles when asked about her qualifications. “I’m qualified,” she said. “This isn’t the first time I hear this about ‘you’re too young or not qualified.’ All of these things aren’t true. I’ve been able to do things [in my life]. I’m qualified.”

Click here to donate and get involved with Cisneros campaign.

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