In Washington, corporations and their political action committees dominate politics. During the 2018 election cycle, corporate PACs contributed $185 million to federal candidates. That’s 40% of all PAC giving, making them the largest source of PAC giving in the country.

Unlike other PACs, corporate PACs are controlled by corporations and benefit from direct corporate money to underwrite them. Corporations use their PACs to buy access and influence in Washington.

A bipartisan poll found that a majority of Americans think “laws enacted by our national government mostly reflect what powerful special interests and their lobbyists want.” Mainers understand that the amount of money in politics is hurting them.

To understand the influence that corporate PACs have over policy-making, look no further than Sen. Susan Collins and the 2017 tax bill. The partisan bill slashed the corporate tax rate, enriching corporations and mega-donors at the expense of working Maine families. Now, Medicare and Social Security are at risk as Congress tries to pay for these corporate giveaways.

Sen. Collins helped pass these giveaways after accepting more than $5 million from corporate PACs over her career. She gave billions back to many of the same corporate interests that supported her campaigns over the years.

Sen. Collins can’t cut her campaign off from corporate money because her support in Maine has dwindled, but there is a growing movement of candidates saying “no” to corporate PAC money.

Candidates who refuse corporate PAC money earn support from small-dollar donors and are independent once elected. By replacing hundreds of thousands of corporate PAC dollars with small donations, they become accountable to people — not corporate special interests.

Those candidates are a stark contrast to Sen. Collins, who has already raised over $1 million from corporate PACs this cycle, which is more than four times the amount she’s raised from Mainers.

But insiders don’t want to change the status quo. It’s no surprise that the former chairman of the Maine Republican Party, Richard Bennett (Oct. 28), attacked the no corporate PAC pledge and defended the role of corporate PAC money in Washington’s rigged system.

Changing the way Washington works won’t happen overnight. Corporate special interests are entrenched, but we can’t give into cynicism. By electing candidates willing to take on corruption, we can take meaningful steps to fix the system.

Right here in Maine, Sara Gideon is standing up to the corporate money machine. Despite misleading attacks from her opponents, the truth is she isn’t taking a dime of corporate PAC money. She’s making anti-corruption and government reform central to her campaign, proving that her priority is Mainers — not corporate special interests. In doing so, Maine voters will never have to question who she’s working for.

Sen. Susan Collins can’t say the same.

Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, Washington, D.C.

Comments are not available on this story.