Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who is currently campaigning to head the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has pledged to reinstate a ban against the organization accepting financial donations from lobbyists.
On Jan. 4, Ellison stated that he would work to ban lobbyist donations to the DNC if he is elected to chair the organization.
"I think it's important that people feel that the party is their party," Ellison told The Huffington Post. "There is a pragmatic, perhaps too pragmatic step that you can say, 'We'll just take whatever money from whatever source in whatever amount.'"
The Minnesota lawmaker added that while lobbyist donations were a practical source of fundraising to tap into, "once you do that, I think you cross a line where people do not feel that the party is really theirs."
Ellison, who prominently supported Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont during the Democratic primary race, concluded that the DNC should mirror that presidential campaign's fundraising model of amassing small donations from supporters.
"People need to feel like, 'Hey -- you know this Democratic Party? It's my party,'" Ellison said in the Huffington Post interview. "And part of what gives them that sense that it is their party, that they possess it -- that they own it -- is that they pay for it."
In 2009, President Barack Obama instituted a ban against lobbyist donations to the DNC. During the 2016 presidential race, former DNC chair Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida lifted the prohibition.
Both Ellison and another high-profile candidate for DNC chair, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, have pledged not to accept any financial contributions from federal lobbyists during their respective campaigns, The Hill reports.
While Ellison has the backing of Sanders, Senate Minority Leader Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, and the AFL-CIO labor union, Perez has the advantage of serving in President Barack Obama's administration.
Perez has declined to commit to reinstating the DNC ban on lobbyist contributions, stating that the organization will "have to have everything on the table."
The Democratic Party will vote on who chairs the DNC in February. Ellison and Perez are currently the top two contenders for the job.