Krishnamoorthi, Ahmed debate whether donations come with strings attached

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg and his Democratic primary opponent, Junaid Ahmed of South Barrington, debated the 8th District incumbent's campaign fundraising success and whether it implies loyalty to corporations or other high-level donors.

The topic was among several discussed in a joint endorsement interview Monday with representatives of the Daily Herald's editorial board.

At the end of the first quarter of the year, Krishnamoorthi's campaign committee had $12.3 million in cash on hand. From the start of 2021 until March 31, 2022, the committee raised $5.6 million and spent $1.7 million.

A first-time candidate, Ahmed ended the first quarter with $271,123. From the start of 2021 until March 31, his campaign had raised $826,832 and spent $555,710.

Like prior opponents of the three-term congressman, Ahmed presents the disparity as a campaign issue.

"I am running to fix (Washington, D.C.), so politicians spend more time fixing problems than raising money," Ahmed said. "And that begins with this pledge - I promise to never take a dime of corporate PAC money. ... And when elected, I promise to fight for campaign finance reform, expanded voter access and congressional term limits."

Krishnamoorthi said he agrees the campaign finance system is in need of fixing, and he sponsored a House bill to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling on fundraising and the "dark money" it introduced into the system.

"As far as my own campaign finances, I play within the rules and I raise as much as I can because I go after the special interests in Washington that are going after me," Krishnamoorthi said. "You can ask the rental car companies, the meat processing companies, the oil and gas companies that I'm now investigating what they think of me. You can ask the drug companies, who are upset with me for trying to get prescription drug pricing reform or the health insurance companies that are upset with me because I want a public option on the Obamacare exchanges."

Ahmed expressed skepticism that corporations expect resistance from the politicians they financially support.

"We all know how corporate America works, increasing the shareholder value," he said. "Investing where there is a return of money, that's a black and white. ... When you take $2 million from defense contractors, from big pharma, from insurance companies, you name it, they are getting something back in return."

Ahmed said his campaign has raised money from grass-roots sources, but Krishnamoorthi accused him of hypocrisy.

"First of all, my opponent takes tens of thousands of dollars from employees of the very industries that he rails against, and then he has us believe that somehow anyone else who might receive money from employees of industries are less pure than him," Krishnamoorthi said. "And of course, my opponent has consulted for years for BP Oil and other fossil fuel companies, and he would have us believe, again, that his motives are more pure than anyone else's.

"I don't think the voters of the 8th Congressional District are going to question our motives, and I think I'm going to give Mr. Ahmed the benefit of the doubt with regard to his intentions." Krishnamoorthi continued.

Ahmed said Krishnamoorthi was drawing a false comparison between a corporate PAC donation and that from an average American running a small business.

"They're not the same things, and I think an average American who works for BP Oil, you cannot blame him for trying to work a 9-to-5 job to feed his family," Ahmed said.

The winner of the June 28 primary will face the winner of a five-candidate Republican primary as well as independent Mohammed Faheem of Plainfield on Nov. 8.

The GOP hopefuls are Chris Dargis of Palatine, Karen Kolodziej of Itasca, Chad Koppie of Gilberts, Peter Kopsaftis of South Barrington, and Phillip Owen Wood of Carol Stream.

Though its borders are shifting for the 2022 elections, the 8th District will remain roughly centered in Schaumburg and include areas of northwest Cook, northeast DuPage and northeast Kane counties.

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