WASHINGTON (Reuters) -At least four moderate Democratic lawmakers have returned contributions from a political action committee formed by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that Republicans said had signaled they endorsed their party's most liberal policies.
The Republican Party's congressional campaign arm launched a website on Monday calling on more than two dozen Democrats, some from highly competitive districts in the U.S. House of Representatives, to give back $5,000 donations from the fundraising effort started last year by Ocasio-Cortez.
At least three Democrats who were not on the list had already refunded contributions made in March by the end of the month, campaign finance records at the Federal Election Commission show. A fourth Democrat, Representative Chris Pappas, had also returned the money, a spokesman said on Monday evening.
Ocasio-Cortez, a star among U.S. liberals, is a top fundraiser among Democrats, with her re-election campaign raising $2.8 million in the first three months of this year. That compares with roughly $4 million raised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Republicans picked up about 10 House seats in November’s election and hope to win an outright majority next year. Democrats currently have a six-seat majority, although there are several vacancies.
Some moderate Democrats blamed the party's congressional losses in 2020 on the willingness of some colleagues to embrace the idea of defunding police departments as well as policies labeled "socialist" by conservatives.
Democrats who called for legislation to address climate change, the expansion of healthcare to all Americans and the reform of U.S. immigration laws were accused by Republicans of advocating extreme left-wing policies, for example.
Republicans are clearly hoping to exploit those themes again in 2022.
Ocasio-Cortez set up her PAC, called The Courage to Change, after refusing to pay dues to the House Democrats' campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
One of the lawmakers who gave back the PAC's cash, Representative Elissa Slotkin, said in a campaign finance report it was "unsolicited."
The report from another Democrat, Representative Ron Kind, showed $5,000 to The Courage to Change had been refunded on March 31. The campaign of freshman Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux also returned the money.
The offices of Kind and Bourdeaux did not respond to inquiries seeking comment. A Slotkin aide declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for Ocasio-Cortez said she was committed to protecting a Democratic majority in the House and had contributed to more than 30 candidates in key seats to help protect that majority.
"The Congresswoman is proud to stand for guaranteed healthcare, housing, and education for all people in the United States and will continue to do so regardless of how hysterical it makes the members of the Republican Caucus," the spokeswoman said.
It is common for lawmakers to give to one another's campaigns. The Courage to Change gave $160,000 to federal candidates and other political committees during the first three months of the year, according to a campaign finance disclosure.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone, Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney)