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Ayanna Pressley Campaign Says She'll Keep Turning Down Corporate Donations In Congress

Ayanna Pressley talks with reporters outside the Adams Street Library in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Ayanna Pressley talks with reporters outside the Adams Street Library in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Presumptive future congresswoman Ayanna Pressley will continue to reject donations from business groups through the November general election and into her expected term in the U.S. House of Representatives, her campaign says.

Pressley, a Boston city councilor, first said during her Democratic primary race against U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano that she would not accept contributions from political action committees affiliated with corporations. The move helped Pressley contrast her priorities with those of the ideologically-similar Capuano, a 10-term incumbent who raised $388,050 from business PACs, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Pressley defeated Capuano last week in the race for his seat in Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District. She has no Republican opponent in the general election.

The extension of Pressley’s policy on corporate donations could further solidify her populist credentials. Yet, in a district that includes business hub Kendall Square, Pressley’s decision also could sour relations between her and companies there — particularly those that preferred Capuano in the first place.

“Up until this point, she hasn’t really been viewed as anti-business, and so I think people have an open mind,” said Larry Rasky, a former communications director for Joe Biden and John Kerry who advises businesses on government relations as chief executive of Boston-based Rasky Partners. “But I think she’s going to have to decide what kind of a congressperson she wants to be.”

Rasky said that throughout the primary he heard from businesses and government-relations colleagues who hoped Capuano would assume a leadership position — and fight for their interests — if Democrats were to win the House in November.

“There’s no question Mike Capuano is going to be missed by people who thought of him as a reliable, open door for concerns that they had,” Rasky said. “And I do think there is a concern about … whether Ayanna either can or wants to step up into that role of making sure that Massachusetts gets its fair share of federal dollars.”

Pressley declined an interview request. Her campaign manager, Sarah Groh, previously told WBUR that “if the councilor has the opportunity to serve in Washington as the next congresswoman from the 7th [district], she would welcome the opportunity to continue to extend that hand of partnership and engage with all stakeholders across the 7th that are playing a role in creating a vibrant economy.”

“But it is critically important to us right now that we draw a firm line and that we don’t take corporate PAC money,” Groh added. “That really is a point of pride for this campaign. It’s value-aligned, and it’s really consistent with the way that she’s governed, too.”

Capuano’s campaign said in July that there is “no stronger fighter for federal research dollars to support the life-saving research taking place in his district,” noting the concentration of biotechnology firms in Kendall Square.

A PAC affiliated with one such firm, Shire Pharmaceuticals, donated $1,000 to Capuano’s campaign and told WBUR during the primary that the company gives to “elected officials with whom we have a history of working on issues that improve the quality of our local communities and our patients’ lives.”

But if the company is disappointed by Pressley’s win, it isn’t letting on.

“We congratulate Ayanna Pressley and look forward to working with her in the future as we seek to positively impact the lives of patients and members of our community,” Shire said in a statement.

Another biotech firm that backed Capuano, Genentech, explained its $5,000 contribution by saying the company “supports candidates for federal office who share our belief in the importance of scientific innovation and ensuring patients have access to the medicines they need.”

In a statement on Pressley’s victory, Genentech said, “Our mission is to bring life-changing medicines to people with serious diseases, and we look forward to working with Ms. Pressley and all elected representatives to ensure people in the United States have access to scientific breakthroughs.”

Related:

Callum Borchers Twitter Reporter
Callum covers the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.

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