High-ranking Democrats have long decried the prevalence of “dark money,” or largely untraceable financial contributions from corporations and special interest groups, within American politics.
As evidence related to Rep. Ron Kind reveals, however, such pronouncements do not always align with a politician’s personal behavior and actions. According to Breitbart, Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat, accepted more than $110,000 worth of domestic and foreign trips paid for by corporations and special interest groups.
Higher totals than other state officials
The figure is based on House Ethics Committee disclosure forms between March 2001 and August 2019 and included at least 14 trips totaling $110,665, Breitbart reported. Several of the outings were to overseas locations, nearly all of which involved stays at luxurious hotels and resorts.
Kind’s wife and children accompanied him on some of the trips and virtually all of them were funded by one of various corporations and organizations.
Of course, there is nothing illegal or inherently wrong with a member of Congress partaking in such a trip, and nearly all elected officials take advantage of such special interest money in some form or another. Disclosure requirements are in place to offer a measure of transparency and the trips are generally expected to have, at least in part, some legitimate purpose.
Nevertheless, Kind’s behavior since he was first elected to represent Wisconsin’s 3rd district in 1996, has exceeded every other member of his state’s D.C. delegation — in some cases by a substantial margin.
As Breitbart revealed, the next highest total among Wisconsin lawmakers went to Sen. Tammy Baldwin, also a Democrat, who took 27 trips valued at a total of $99,502. Following her is Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) with 10 trips totaling $58,025, and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) with 22 trips totaling $53,694.
Uncertain political future
Among the state’s Republicans, the highest total was reported by U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, who took four trips valued at a combined $36,864. Even former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who was arguably a friend of corporations and special interest groups, took just 17 trips totaling $57,526 during his tenure in office.
Open Secrets revealed that corporate and special-interest contributions to Kind’s congressional campaigns over the years also give his critics cause for concern.
Between 1995 and 2020, his campaigns have received more than $1.8 million from the insurance industry, $1.5 million from the health care field, more than $1 million from pharmaceutical companies, $820,000 from attorneys and law firms, and more than $800,00 from investment and securities firms — all contributing to a total of more than $19.6 million raised over a quarter-century.
While there is no indication that he violated any laws, his party’s public pronouncements against such special interest funding certainly cast his behavior in a negative light among many Americans. These factors have apparently contributed to the decision of the National Republican Congressional Committee to include Kind on an “exit list” of House Democrats expected to retire or run for a different office.
A report in February indicated that Kind was “taking a look” at challenging Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in next year’s midterm election. Retired Navy SEAL Derrick Van Orden, a Republican who nearly defeated Kind in November, reportedly plans to run again in the district won by former President Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.