Candidates Aren't Taking Money From PACs Or Lobbyists — But What About Ex-Boyfriends?

Amy Klobuchar, an innovator

Political debates probably aren't the first place that comes to mind when someone brings up #RelationshipGoals. Yet 2020 hopeful Amy Klobuchar appealed to that base at the fifth Democratic primary debate on Wednesday (November 20) when she trotted out one of her go-to punchlines: that in her first Senate race, she raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends alone.

"My first Senate race I literally called everyone I knew and I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends," which she added was "not an expanding base." Per CNN, her answer also highlighted the need to eradicate gerrymandering and regulate the lobbyist money in politics.

This isn't the first time she's used the line, by a long shot: According to the New York Times, she first used the line at Danny DeVito's house (yes, really) some time between 2006 and 2009, and in 2009 she used it at a Washington, D.C., speech. Given that Klobuchar first ran for Senate in 2006, the timeline tracks. (DeVito has since donated to other candidates in the 2020 primary.) And she has since regaled it at plenty of appearances, including in a 2018 talk with other woman senators.

While the Federal Election Commission does not list any of Klobuchar's donations from the 2006 election, we do know that the then-primary challenger raised at least $148,000 with the help of the progressive group Emily's List. She has also said that she raised money by calling people around the same time as The West Wing aired on TV. And it all paid off: Klobuchar handily won the race against Republican Mark Kennedy.

As a presidential candidate, Klobuchar has reportedly raised at least $13.9 million in the race to 2020, while other candidates have raised far more. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren lead the pack in terms of individual donations. And while the specifics vary, plenty of candidates have promised to not take money from one or more groups of lobbyists or Political Action Committees. A notable outlier: President Donald Trump, who has raised more money than any other candidate, largely thanks to the PACs doing the work for him.

All of these donations can leave young people out of the political equation, largely because they often cannot afford to donate to candidates and, therefore, feel like their support matters materially less while candidates are stumping for a bottom line. In October, Sunrise Movement activist Lily Levin confronted former Vice President Joe Biden about taking money from super PACs, which don't have to disclose where the money comes from. She called the "lack of transparency" that PACs provide a "problem."

Who knew that exes would actually be a safer bet?