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Why the Steve King boycott won’t matter

The Iowa congressman, known for his connections to the extreme right, has never raised much money.
Why the Steve King boycott won’t matter

Republican Congressman Steve King, stuck in a tight battle to keep his job in Iowa, is facing an exodus of his few corporate donors after it was reported last week that he'd met with members of an Austrian group associated with neo-Nazis.

But that’s unlikely to hurt the eight-term congressman, considering he hasn't raised much money and what he's raised is largely spent already. Further, Rep. King has never raised nor spent much money to win elections in the past —even with his history of racist comments.


“That hurts a little, but it’s not going to affect him this cycle,” said David Anderson, a political scientist at Iowa State University. “Steve King has never been a great fundraiser. He doesn’t really run a campaign.”

“Steve King has never been a great fundraiser. He doesn’t really run a campaign”

Land O’Lakes, the dairy cooperative, said on Tuesday that it will no longer make donations to King’s campaign through its political action committee. Its PAC gave $2,500 to King this election cycle, which was first pointed out in a tweet by Judd Legum, author of the newsletter Popular Information. Purina PetCare and Intel have also said they’re not going to donate to King anymore.

In a response to a query from VICE News, AT&T said it would not contribute any additional funds to Rep. King this year. “Our PAC contributions are managed and approved by a committee of employees who represent various levels and business units throughout the company. Since the 2018 contribution cycle is completed, we will not be making any further contributions to Congressman King this year. When the PAC committee meets next year to decide future contributions for 2019 and beyond, they will take all concerns very seriously," an AT&T spokesman said in an email.

But as bad as those optics are for King, it won’t hurt him financially. King has already spent most of his approximately $740,000 in fundraising on administrative expenses like salaries or more fundraising, according to federal campaign filings. He has yet to put a single campaign ad on TV.


His challenger, Democrat J.D. Scholten, a first-time candidate, has raised more than $1.7 million and has already spent $1.4 million in an effort to unseat King., including via an ongoing aggressive advertising campaign

Recent polls still have the eight-term incumbent’s race against Scholten at a toss-up. Cook Political report sees Iowa’s 4th Congressional District leaning Republican only a week ahead of the midterm elections. FiveThirtyEight also projects his district will likely lean Republican. Registered Republicans account for 40 percent of voters in Iowa's 4th, compared to 25 percent Democrats.

Jewish groups, meanwhile, have condemned King for an August meeting with members of an Austrian political group, the Freedom Party, which is associated with neo-Nazis and has historical Nazi connections. The trip was partially financed by a Holocaust education group, which paid for King’s airfare. Two Iowa-based Jewish leaders are calling for King’s remaining corporate donors, including AT&T, to withdraw financial support, according to the Des Moines Register.

AT&T did not respond to a VICE News request for comment.

King is still defending his interview with an Austrian far-right propaganda site, telling the Washington Post that “if they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans.” And then there’s his endorsement for a white supremacist mayoral candidate in Toronto earlier this month.


Even so, it’s not like King’s views are anything new, even if Rep. Steve Stivers, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is only now saying King’s “recent comments, actions and retweets are completely inappropriate.” “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms,” Stivers wrote in a tweet Tuesday.

King has been making fear-mongering comments about immigration and white superiority for years, and the Huffington Post reported in July that Republicans have mostly stayed silent. The Anti-Defamation League is still urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to strip King of his subcommittee chairmanship, according to Axios.

“In today’s world, there’s a heightened sense of awareness of what people are saying and talking and thinking about, and Steve King has been clear about his views for a very long time. People are now saying, ‘We’ve gotta draw the line,’” Anderson said.

Plus, the GOP’s outspoken ire came only after some campaign donors got cold feet, calling renewed attention to King’s views.

To be sure, King has denied he’s anti-Semitic. He’s blamed “fake news” for misinterpreting his words and attacking him. And Suzan Stewart, chairwoman for the Woodbury County Republican Party in Iowa, said “nobody has contacted me nor have I heard anything from anyone in the party to suggest that there’s anything slipping for Congressman King.” In fact, her county will host another rally for King this weekend, she said.

Cover: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, attends a rally with Angel Families on the East Front of the Capitol, to highlight crimes committed by illegal immigrants in the U.S., on September 7, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)