Rep. Beto O’Rourke is aiming to topple Ted Cruz and pursue a progressive agenda in Texas.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke believes he’s found the way to get corporate money out of U.S. politics: Stop taking it.
O’Rourke, who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Ted Cruz in Texas’s U.S. Senate race next year, refused donations from political action committees (PACs) in his 2016 House race, and the ban is in place for his ongoing Senate race. In March, he and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would ban congressional members or candidates from accepting PAC contributions, except for donations from their own PAC.
Toppling Cruz, a favorite son of far-right Republicans, would be a major victory for Democrats. The party hasn’t won a Senate race in the state since 1988, and the electoral map is bleak for them in 2018: Democrats are defending 25 seats, while Republicans are defending only eight. O’Rourke, who has served in the House since 2013, represents Texas’s 16th Congressional district, which encompasses El Paso.
O’Rourke recently spoke with In These Times from Amarillo, Texas, a stop on his summer cross-Texas campaign tour. The Texas Democratic primary will be March 6, 2018. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Theo Anderson: You’ve implemented a ban on PAC money in your campaign. Why did you make that a priority?
Beto O’Rourke: Being in Congress really shows you how money, and interests behind that money, determine so much of the outcome. And it can almost seem innocuous. You’re voting on something that you don’t understand very well, and it’s not important to your constituents. But it’s important to a political action committee that has given you thousands of dollars over the course of your time there. Members of Congress can make the calculus that this isn’t really going to affect my constituents, and it helps me get reelected, so I’ll go ahead and vote for their issue. And the aggregate of all those decisions, from all those members of Congress, ends up producing the otherwise inexplicable policies that are so disappointing to so much of this country. You wonder about the federal government, with all its purchasing power and leverage when it comes to pharmaceuticals—for veterans at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare and Medicaid, federal employees who have health insurance. Why don’t we use that muscle to lower drug prices and get a better bargain for the tax dollars? I think you can connect the dots.