Senate candidate Hovde misleadingly claims he won't take corporate special interest cash - TAI News
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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde at a rally for former President Donald Trump in Green Bay, Wisconsin, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Wisconsin Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde promised in a social media post on April 21 that he would take no campaign contributions from business interests. A Wisconsin Independent review of his campaign’s Federal Election Commission disclosures reveals that he already has.

Hovde, the millionaire chair and CEO of a Utah-based bank, is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November’s election. He has put $8 million in loans from his own funds into the race so far.

“As your Senator, I promise you these three things,” Hovde posted on X on April 21. “1) I will work tirelessly on your behalf. 2) I won’t take one dollar from corporate special interests. I cannot be bought. 3) I will always put the people of Wisconsin and this country first.”

While candidates are free to spend as much of their own money to get elected as they wish, federal law limits other individuals to donating $3,300 per candidate for each election. 

Since joining the race, Hovde has accepted the legal maximum — $6,600 for his primary campaign and $6,600 for a possible general election campaign — from Elizabeth Uihlein, president of the Uline packing and shipping supply company and her husband Richard, the company’s CEO.

Hovde also accepted $6,600 contributions from business executives including Adamant Homes president Larry Sundquist; Chain Bridge Bank chair Peter Fitzgerald; Charles Potomac Capital CEO Joe Popolo; Elliott Investment Management president and co-CEO Paul Singer; Monster Beverage Corporation co-CEO Rodney Sacks; and Mountaire Farms chair Ronald Cameron.

Hovde had unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination for the same Wisconsin Senate seat in 2012. In that race, he took thousands of dollars in political action committee contributions from the Wisconsin Bankers Association, North Shore Bank, and the Independent Community Bankers of America. 

A campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

While it is not unusual for political candidates to accept campaign contributions from wealthy individuals, it does appear to contradict his claim that he is refusing any corporate special interest money.

Hovde has long supported policies that would benefit the richest Americans and large corporations at the expense of working people. 

During his 2012 race, Hovde opposed a proposal to require people earning more than $1 million annually to pay a minimum 30% tax rate. In a Cap Times editorial, he endorsed tax cuts that would benefit the highest earners and large corporations, saying: “My plan will: Reduce individual income tax rates across the board; reduce the corporate tax rate (which is currently the highest in the world); reduce the size and scope of the IRS; and eliminate corporate welfare, the death tax and nearly all of the loopholes and deductions that currently exist.”

In a November 2017 radio interview, Hovde proposed raising tax rates for retirees and making even the poorest Americans pay federal income taxes. “Everybody should pay some level of tax, even if it’s a small amount, and you don’t want people just getting checks, without having put in even $1 into the system,” he urged. “Everybody has to feel like they’re part of it and taxes matter to them.”

On April 8, Hovde blasted President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief program as the “Biden-Baldwin vote buying scheme,” despite previously touting and profiting from forgivable corporate loans made available through the Paycheck Protection Program. 

More than 135,000 borrowers in Wisconsin have already enrolled in Biden’s Saving on a Valuable Education Plan.

Updated 4-23-24: After publication, Hovde spokesperson Ben Voelkel said in an email to the Wisconsin Independent, “Eric Hovde pledged he would not accept corporate PAC money and he has and will continue to abide by that.”

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The Wisconsin Independent is a project of American Independent Media, a 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to use journalism to educate the public, giving them the information they need about local and federal issues.