Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said this week he has no aversion to accepting campaign donations from political action committees — despite a 1998 pledge against it — because of the need to be "competitive" in statewide races.
DeMint, one of the Senate's most conservative Republicans, has reaped increased media coverage this year for his enthusiastic support for staunchly conservative Tea Party candidates who have in several cases imperiled Republican chances of winning general election contests. First elected to the House in 1998, he was elected to the Senate in 2004 and is easily expected to win re-election this year.
But DeMint has raised some eyebrows for accepting PAC money for his re-elections — nearly $1.8 million since 2005, including more than $1 million this year alone. In 1998, when running for the House, DeMint had pledged not to do so, publishing a campaign platform that explicitly rejected it.
"Special interest PAC money corrupts our political system because it allows special interest groups to control elections and our representatives," read the 1998 platform. "Jim DeMint will not take any PAC money and will fight for reforms that allow only individual contributions to campaigns."
Asked about his apparent reversal, DeMint told The Hill the no-PAC-money pledge applied only to his House race.
"I didn't take PAC money the whole time I was in the [House], but when I ran for the Senate, in order to be competitive statewide, I needed to accept money from the associations and groups that support me," DeMint said. "So yeah, it wasn't a change in mind from my House race, because I could be competitive, but on a statewide race I couldn't."
Pressed about whether his change could violate voter trust, DeMint noted that PAC contributions are adequately scrutinized.
"PACs are among the most regulated givers, and they can only give a limited amount of money," he said. "That's clearly not the problem up here. It's such a small part now, given all these organizations that spend millions."