BOSTON (AP) — Edward Markey relied heavily on support from political action committees and outside groups during his special election campaign for U.S. Senate, pulling in more than a million dollars in donations from groups that could end up advocating for or against legislation before committees on which Markey now serves.
The $1.1 million in political contributions include checks of $5,000 or more from over 100 PACs, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
That means nearly one out of every nine dollars received by Markey came from a PAC. Markey raised a total of $9.1 million, including nearly $8 million in individual contributions.
The flood of money helped propel Markey over his Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez, who collected just over $220,000 from PACs.
And it wasn't just help from PACs that aided Markey's Senate bid.
Markey also benefited from about $2 million in independent expenditures from labor, environmental and other groups who appealed to voters to vote for the Malden Democrat and longtime congressman. Gomez benefited from just under $1 million in outside spending.
Those expenditures aren't made in consultation with the campaign and aren't counted among Markey's donations.
Now that he's taken office, Markey says the contributions he received from PACs won't sway his votes and won't guarantee those groups have his ear on key issues more than average voters.
"It's completely transparent. Everyone knows who contributed to my campaign," Markey told the AP. "My voting record is tied to what is best for the people of Massachusetts."
But critics have raised alarms about PAC contributions, saying the groups often advocate for or against elements of legislation that might escape public notice.
Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, which has pushed for smaller contribution limits and public funding of campaigns, said money from PACs and from independent advocacy groups undermines voter confidence.
"We don't want there to be any questions in the public's minds that their elected officials are representing them and not their donors," Wilmot said. "It's a perennial problem in American politics and we need to solve it."
Among the PACs donating $5,000 or more to Markey were committees representing Comcast, Sprint Nextel, U.S. Cellular Corp., T-Mobile, the American Cable Association, DirecTV Group Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., the commissioner of Major League Baseball and several PACs representing labor including postal worker, ironworker, firefighter, carpenter and teacher unions.
Markey, who won the special June election to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of John Kerry, was appointed to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Commerce, Science and Transportation and Foreign Relations committees.
Two groups that spent the most to help elect Markey are the Service Employees International Union, which ponied up more than $670,000 in outside spending, and the League of Conservation Voters, which spent nearly $1.2 million. Much of the league's money was spent on canvassing voters, consulting fees, volunteer mobilization, mailings and online ads.
Tiernan Sittenfeld, a spokeswoman for the League of Conservation Voters, said the group's support of Markey was based on what she called his long history of supporting conservation causes during his years in the House and was not an attempt to guarantee better access.
She described Markey as one of the group's "biggest champions and closest allies."
"Markey has been a long term environmental champion and there's no one who has done more to combat the climate crisis than he," Sittenfeld said. "When he decided to run for Senate we were thrilled and wanted to do everything we could to help."
Markey isn't alone in accepting PAC contributions.
Every other member of Massachusetts' all-Democratic congressional delegation accepts donations from political action committees. In some cases those donations make up the bulk of all contributions during an election cycle.
Earlier in his 37-year career in the U.S. House, Markey had made a point of not accepting money from PACS, a policy he had maintained as recently as 2000.
During the Senate election, Markey also agreed to a so-called "people's pledge" in the Democratic primary designed to discourage television, radio and internet ads by outside groups. Markey pushed for a similar pledge during the general election, but Gomez declined to sign on.
Wilmot's group found that without such a pledge during the general election, outside spending "came roaring back" — accounting for nearly 36 percent of all the money raised in the 2013 contest.