Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Truckloads of Campaign Money Don't Matter Some Say: Until It Does

Sen. Harry Reid (D) Confers with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) on Spending Bill


First, a look back on the issue from here back in June 2014 with this headline from the NY Daily News:

"Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell clash at hearing on proposed constitutional amendment to limit money in politics" — a proposal that would allow Congress to regulate the sudden flood of money into elections, reversing recent Supreme Court decisions.

Now, let's face it, and based on McConnell's quote that follows Reid's is simple - can't get it through the front door, then slip it in "must-pass bill - ergo: the spending bill. My point:

First, quote from Reid: He testified that “the flood of dark money” unleashed by Supreme Court rulings is “the greatest to our democracy that I've witnessed during my tenure in public service.”

Then, quote from McConnell: “Everyone on this panel knows this proposal will never pass Congress.''

Sadly, both are correct: Reid "greatest threat to our democracy" is 100% correct and so is McConnnell's "it will never pass Congress."

As I said, can't get this or anything through the front door, use the back door or some under the table shenanigan (that Congress is famous for), like this from The Hill, and I love the quote from Democracy 21:

A surprise provision included in the massive spending bill released by Congress on Tuesday evening would give the parties new ways to raise campaign cash. 

Beginning on page 1,599 of the 1,603-page document — under a heading entitled “Other Matters” — the legislation proposes the creation of three additional accounts that would help the parties raise money for party conventions, the building or renovation of party headquarters, the relief of legal debts and election recount costs.

Campaign finance watchdog groups Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and Common Cause, flagged the provision about an hour after the appropriations bill was released.

That quote I like: “This makes the Great Train Robbery look like a petty misdemeanor. These provisions have never been considered by the House or Senate, and were never even publicly mentioned before today,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer - a man of great respect on this topic.

Now my input with that background in place comes from here (Open Secrets):   

As OpenSecrets.org has noted previously, very few people give any money to political campaigns or committees at all. In fact, out of about 310 million Americans, in the 2014 cycle just 0.21 percent gave $200 or more, and 0.04 percent gave $2,600 or more. In other words, current rules limiting how much an individual can give to party committees haven’t been a pressing problem for most Americans.

As things stand now, an individual donor may give $32,400 to a national party committee each year, and there are three on each side (not counting the DNC and RNC) like these three party committees for each side: the (DCCC, DSCC, NRCC, and NRSC) – all branches of the HQ at DNC and RNC. Note: The main national committees of each party (DNC and RNC) would also be able to create a fund to help pay for the presidential nominating convention. There would be a total of seven committees, instead of three, on each side, and each of the four newly created committees would be able to accept donations of up to $97,200. That is on top of the $97,200 that can already be donated to the three original committees.

So, simple math says that grand total for a donor who wanted to give the maximum to each of the three original committees and all of the four new committees would be $776,000 per year, or $1.5 million per two-year election cycle; for a couple, the total comes to a cool $3 million. Those are gargantuan figures when it comes to hard money party donations.

According to Open Secrets data, since 1989 there have been just 259 people who, in their entire careers as political donors, have given more than $1.5 million. That includes the recent mega-donors to super PACs, like Tom Steyer, who gave $74 million to liberal groups this year, and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson who gave $93.1 million, mainly to GOP Super PACs, just in the 2012 cycle. It also does not count “dark money,” the source of which are not disclosed.

Even in an era of multi-million dollar checks, the number of people who have ever given that much, whether in one check or many combined, is exceedingly small. The number of “donors” may be small, but the truckloads of money are not.

Simple Q: Why do we tolerate and stand for it? People talk about the system being corrupt and broken with Congress not listening to the people, yada, yada, yap, yap, etc., ad nauseam – yet that same public – all of us – are mum on the issue. Why? I contend and have for years that all that big money is the problem. Until we demand change, there won’t be change. Change is a fancy buzzword every election cycle, but changing the Rep. or Senator is not the same as getting then change needed in campaign finance reform.

Some people will still contend that this flow of big money as an issue doesn’t matter – that is until it does. 

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