Monday, May 23, 2016

Got some cash? Buy yourself a President.

Robert Reich

It turns out individual donors can now give more than $1.1 million to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Officially, some of this goes to the Democratic National Party to finance state party activities under the joint fundraising committee set up between the DNC and the Clinton campaign and also to support the Democratic convention in July. But Politico (below) has found only 1 percent is going to the state parties, and the rest into the Clinton campaign.

We’re back to the anything-goes “soft money” days of the 1990s -- before investigations into charges that illegal foreign contributions were funneled into party committees lead to the passage of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, banning parties from accepting unregulated donations. But then came the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in "McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission," doing away with the cap on how much individual donors could give to federal campaigns, parties and PACs in one year — and thereby allowing candidates and parties to create giant joint fundraising committees. (Later that year, congressional leaders tucked a measure into an appropriations bill letting national parties collect additional funds for new convention, legal and building accounts, essentially expanding the contribution limit tenfold.)

Earlier this year, you may recall, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz did away with the ban on donations from lobbyists and political action committees put in place by Obama at the start of his administration. (The DNC even named a finance director specifically for PAC donations who recently emailed prospective donors to let them know that they can now contribute again, according to an email reviewed by The Washington Post.)

The Clinton campaign says it needs to raise all this money from wealthy individuals and corporations in order to stay competitive, raising the specter of a huge Trump campaign war chest.

I’m not so sure. Americans hate big money in politics for the obvious reason that most big donors want favors in return – favors that further corrupt our democracy and rig the game for their benefit. Bernie has shown It’s possible to tap into a wellspring of small donations from people fed up with politics as usual.

Unless we get big money out of politics, we have no chance of unrigging the current system.

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