The revelation raises questions about what Pennsylvania GOP candidate Rick Saccone pledged to those he met with — and what price voters may have to pay for his promises.
Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone had a special date on Valentine's Day this year — and a corporate lobbyist was the matchmaker.
In the midst of a heated campaign for a newly vacated congressional seat, Saccone took time off the campaign trail to head to D.C. for a private Valentine's Day rendezvous with the Business Coalition for Fair Competition (BCFC), a pro-privatization group that advocates for the interests of corporations and businesses at the expense of the public interest.
Saccone is taking on Democratic candidate Conor Lamb for Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, which was vacated last year with the resignation of Rep. Tim Murphy, an anti-abortion Republican who was caught urging his mistress to get an abortion just days after pushing an abortion ban through the House.
The race for the 18th District, which encompasses the suburban area outside of Pittsburgh, should have been an easy one for Saccone to win. In November 2016, Trump won the district by 20 points. But as it stands now, Saccone is neck-in-neck with Lamb in a district where Democrats didn't even field a candidate in 2016.
Perhaps that explains why Saccone is desperately cozying up to special interest groups in the hopes of getting their help — meaning, their money — as the March 13 special election approaches.
Saccone's Valentine's Day meeting with BCFC was labeled as a "candidate roundtable" — the only such event on BCFC's calendar during the month of February. In fact, it was the only event on BCFC's calendar that month, period.
So what did the candidate discuss at the roundtable? Shareblue Media reached out to Saccone's campaign for comment, but didn't hear back — so the purpose of the meeting, as well as any promises Saccone may have made to the group, remain a secret.
That should concern voters, as should the Republican candidate's coziness with pro-privatization groups and lobbyists.
Public records reveal that Saccone's Valentine's Day rendezvous with BCFC was arranged by lobbyist John Byrd. According to Open Secrets, Byrd has lobbied for legislation promoting the privatization of prisons and infrastructure development, as well as the sale of public lands and buildings to private entities, among other predatory privatization schemes.
Through these types of schemes, assets that belong to the public are sold off to private corporations and then leased back to the government — all on the taxpayer's dime.
That's the problem with privatization: It's nothing more than a scheme to divert taxpayer dollars away from investments that would benefit the public interest, and turn them them into profit for corporations. This is borne out in the mission statement of the group Saccone met with (BCFC), which says its goal is to "advocate for public policies that promotes [sic] the utilization of and reliance upon the private sector by government at all levels ..."
That's a nice way of saying they don't want the government to get in the way of private corporate interests. According to People for the American Way, "the privatization of governmental functions has resulted in the loss of public sector jobs that have been crucial to the growth of the middle class in favor of lower-wage jobs for workers and new profit centers for CEOs and investors."
Saccone's Valentine's Day meeting reflects a pattern of putting the corporations and special interests above the interests of voters, in stark contrast to his Democratic opponent.
In January, Lamb took a no-corporate-PAC pledge, promising not to take money from corporate special interests. Most of Lamb's campaign donations have come from individual dollars and in-state donors, in line with his pledge to reject corporate super PAC donations.
Saccone has not taken such a pledge and is in fact the beneficiary of a huge influx of corporate dollars and outside spending.
According to the Washington Post, national groups — those that don't represent Saccone's constituents in Pennsylvania — have spent an estimated $4 million on ads backing Saccone and attacking his Democratic opponent. About 70 percent of those outside dollars are estimated to have been spent on attack ads going after Lamb.
"Saccone is pledging his allegiance to deep-pocketed corporate special interests who are dishing out these checks. Pennsylvania families know that he’s already in the pockets of corporations whose primary concern is their own bottom lines," said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United.
Saccone has also pledged his allegiance to the gun lobby. In late January, the National Rifle Association endorsed Saccone, who maintains an "A+" rating from the group.
Now, with the revelation of Saccone's lobbyist-arranged meeting, voters are left wondering what he may have pledged to those he met with — and what price they'll have to pay for his promises.