CEDAR RAPIDS — End Citizens United, a political action committee that supports Democrats, will target Iowa 1st District Rep. Rod Blum as part of a $35 million campaign to defeat congressional Republicans.
The group says it will tell voters how Blum and other members of Congress prioritize the needs of special interests that fund their campaigns.
“Blum represents a rigged system that puts mega-donors and the special interests above Iowa families,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United. President Donald Trump “was elected on a promise to drain the swamp, but things are only getting worse in Washington. Rod Blum is one of the worst offenders, and we will hold him accountable.”
Blum’s office did not immediately respond.
The committee said it plans to mobilize more than 3 million members to replace incumbents with “reformers who will focus on all of us, not just those who write the biggest checks.”
So far in the 2018 election cycle, the committee has raised more than $11 million and spent about $6.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In 2016, it spent $117,377 in an attempt to defeat Blum and $22,344 to elect Democrat Monica Vernon instead. But Blum won re-election by a 54 to 46 percent margin.
Blum spokesman John Ferland saw irony in the organization's effort.
“Let me get this straight, an out-of-state political action committee that wants to end money in politics is proud to announce it is spending $35 million on political attack ads?” Ferland said. “And against Congressman Blum, whose goal is to drain the swamp and has introduced or co-sponsored legislation to enact term limits, ban lobbying, ban taxpayer-paid first class travel, ban luxury car leases, cut members pay and end the congressional pension?”
The group’s campaign — Big Money 20 — is an effort to claim independent and unaffiliated voters who voted for Trump but, according to the group, heavily favor candidates who want to change the system.
After supporting Barack Obama by margins of 18 points and 14 points in 2008 and 2012, respectively, 1st District voters backed Trump over Hillary Clinton 49 to 45 percent in 2016.
According to the group, Blum sided with the conservative Koch brothers and Club for Growth against the Export-Import Bank, despite its support of $42 million in exports from the 1st District. The group also asserts Blum voted for the GOP health care and tax plans after donors threatened to withhold contributions.
State Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque, one of four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 1st District, said Blum has “sold out to Wall Street” and that the Dubuque business owner is unwilling to “fight for Main Street, good jobs and higher paychecks.”
Finkenauer and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, are being backed by the group.