Democrats Focus on Campaign Finance in Senate Debate

(KCPW News) Campaign financing was a hot topic during a debate last night between two Utah Democrats vying for U.S. Senate, former State Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell and XMission founder and President Pete Ashdown. When Ashdown asked Howell about past money he’d taken from political action committees, or PACs, Howell acknowledged he had done so, but said it wasn’t used to buy his support.

“When I was in the State Senate, we got PAC money all the time. The classical one is the tobacco industry that gave me money, and I’ll never forget when they brought me in a check, and I said to them, ‘I’m sponsoring the legislation to do away with smoking in restaurants because I cannot stand it any more.’ And they said, fine, keep our check,” he said.

Howell added that in order for Democrats to be competitive in the U.S. Senate race under the current campaign financing system, they have to have money.

Ashdown, meanwhile, repeated his pledge to not accept any money from PACs during the campaign.

“I’m clear about getting rid of the influence of money in Washington, and I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” said Ashdown. “I believe I can win this with small, individual donations.”

The debate was hosted by the Women’s Democratic Club of Utah at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper. Both Howell and Ashdown have challenged incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch before and lost – Howell in 2000 and Ashdown in 2006.