Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said she believes that a fundraiser hosted at a Pfizer executive’s home does not conflict with her goal of curbing “lobbyist money” from politics.
During a Fox News interview on Monday, Gillibrand was asked of news reports that Sally Susman, Pfizer’s executive vice president of Corporate Affairs, was hosting a fundraiser at her home in New York on March 31. Susman chairs the pharmaceutical company’s Political Action Committee and contributed to Gillibrand’s campaign, as well as former President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
People familiar with the event say that ticket prices are between $1,000 to $2,700, according to CNBC.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asked Gillibrand if she believed that access to candidates was “for sale” in the 2020 US presidential election. Gillibrand replied by defending the fundraiser and described Susman as a “dear friend who I’ve known for years.”
“I think you do need to get money out of politics,” Gillibrand said to Wallace. “The most important thing we have to do is upend the way our democracy functions. Today, the wealthiest most powerful lobbyists and special interests groups get to write bills in the dead of night …”
“Ok, so answer my one question directly: $2,700,” Wallace interrupted.
Gillibrand steered the interview towards another direction and discussed the government’s inability to directly negotiate lower prices with drug companies. Wallace; however, pressed her for a direct response to the fundraiser.
“Let me finish,” Gillibrand said. “So what’s wrong with Washington is [sic] there’s so much corruption. So much corruption, so much greed.”
“We can’t actually pass common-sense gun reform in this country,” Gillibrand added. “Not because the American people aren’t behind it, because they are. But because the NRA’s more worried about gun sales than they are about the well-being of our kids. So what’s really wrong with Washington is corruption and greed …”
“Can you answer my question,” Wallace asked again.
“Yes, just let me finish,” Gillibrand said. “So for me, that’s why I’m banning federal lobbyist money. That’s why I’m banning super PAC money.”
“That is the first step to making sure that … the powerful, the elite of the elite, don’t have unbelievable influence over Washington …”
“Just answer, though, $2,700 tickets,” Wallace later quipped. “Are you going to go ahead and have the fundraiser or not?”
“Of course I’m going ask Americans all across this country to support my campaign,” Gillibrand answered. “But taking away the influence that corporate PAC checks have — the fact that federal lobbyists get to control everything and write bills in the dead of night …”
“And you don’t see a contradiction there,” Wallace asked.
“I don’t, because at the end of the day, people are going to support our campaigns because they believe in us,” Gillibrand said. “They believe that I will fight for women’s reproduction freedom, that I will [fight] for LGBTQ equality, that it won’t demonize people across this country. This country has always been great because we care about one another.”
Gillibrand vowed that her campaign will not accept support from super PACs and that it was going “to be run for and by people.”
Gillibrand is not the only Democratic candidate to attend exclusive fundraisers for their campaign. Sen. Kamala Harris of California will appear at a fundraiser hosted by Star Wars director J.J. Abrams and producer Katie McGrath at Los Angeles on March 20. Tickets are reportedly priced at $2,800; and donors who contribute $10,000 will be added as co-hosts, according to Variety.
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren appeared to take note of the fundraisers for her opponents and compared them to her campaign: “On our campaign, there’ll be no event you’ll be excluded from because you can’t afford it, and no better seats or 1:1 time with me at events if you can,” Warren tweeted on Monday. “What you donate shouldn’t determine the amount of time you get to spend with a candidate.”