September 22, 2013

"It would be terrible for our democracy … if one politician could directly solicit $3.6 million from a single donor."

"That is 70 times the median income for an American family. It would mean a tiny, tiny group of donors would wield unprecedented power and influence," says an election law expert from a liberal advocacy group, quoted by David Savage in an L.A. Times piece titled "Supreme Court may strike new blow to campaign funding laws/The Supreme Court, in a new campaign funding case, may lift a lid on the total the wealthy can give to all candidates and parties."
In recent [Supreme Court] opinions, [Chief Justice John] Roberts has said the government may not try to "level the playing field" between candidates or prevent well-funded candidates from using their financial advantage to dominate the airwaves. The only justification for limiting contributions, the court has said, is to prevent "corruption or the appearance of corruption."...

"This is a limit on how many candidates you support, not on how much you give them," said James Bopp Jr., an attorney for the Republican National Committee. He cites the case of McCutcheon, an Alabama man who gave a total of $33,000 to various Republican candidates for Congress last year and wanted to give $21,000 more. He was stopped by the legal limit on total contributions to candidates, which now stands at $48,600.

McCutcheon "holds firm convictions on the proper role of government" and "opposes numerous and ill-conceived and overreaching laws," he told the court, and he wants more "federal officeholders who share his beliefs."

32 comments:

Matthew Sablan said...

So, we should probably never vote for a politician that would reject his promise of using public financing, right?

It is always interesting in what ways we want to limit the powerful; it appears only when it helps Republicans.

cubanbob said...

I find it offensive to have public financing of campaigns to begin with. As for limits, better to give up that nonsense as well. Better to do away with these hypocrisies. Let any citizen in full possession of their civil rights give as much as they want to whoever they want as long as its disclosed. As for corporate contributions, as long as they are US corporations thats fine by me as long as they are not directly subsidized by the taxpayers Obama got around the campaign finance laws rather effectively with bundlers and unverified credit cards and union support and the corporate house organs of the democratic party and the party's NGOs.

Paddy O said...

A tiny group of donors already wield unprecedented power and influence.

They work for the national media. Candy Crowley, for instance, may have donated the election to Obama by actively advocating on his behalf in a debate. Why does she get that right when others don't have that right?

KnightErrant said...

The U. S. House of Representatives, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil.

Hagar said...

Same old, same old. The Republican Party tend to get their contributions in money from wealthy individuals, while the Democrats get theirs "in kind" from unions and "activist groups," so both parties try to hamper the other's sources and protect it's own.
And of course the real big time corruption for both lies in government grants, regulations and enforcement, and legislation.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

$3.6 million.

That's only 18 speeches by Hillary Clinton. Easily done in less than 6 months, with all (lavish) expenses paid.

And, significantly, money goes directly to her.

So, article writer, I don't even want to f*cking hear about your complaints, unless you are railing against that too.

Michael K said...

If I remember correctly, Eugene McCarthy's campaign in 1968 was funded by a very few individuals with very large donations. The campaign finance laws have added to corruption.

Joseph Blieu said...

The elephant in the room would be the trade/Teachers/Govt. Workers Unions that give much more than Exxon Mobil in dollars, also contributing bussed in protest specialists and clerical work done by paid "volunteers" as non cash contributions. There is no Republican equivalent to this form of campaign contribution.

tim maguire said...

It would be terrible for our democracy if government were so powerful that a single individual would think it in his interests to give a single politician 3.6 million dollars.

There is only one way to get the money out of poitics.

YoungHegelian said...

Strange that one never hears from folks such as Dan Savage that the largest amount of political contributions comes from unions, not from wealthy individuals or corporations.

Also, not only President Obama not only turn down public financing, but he also accumulated war chests for both campaigns far larger than any before, e.g. $750 million for 2008. Of course, from the media's viewpoint, all that money came from widows & orphans.

Hagar said...

How many on this list, Forbes' 400, can you identify as likely Republican donors? And how many Democrat?

Freeman Hunt said...

But if he buys a major media outlet for $1 billion dollars and uses that, it's just fine.

Taking the limits off would level the playing field, not distort it.

Unknown said...

Make government smaller.

Eliminate the need for corporations to pay protection money to stymie destructive regulation and to stymie their competitors.

Reduce the ability of foreign competitors to influence our policies via untraceable donations and donations to front groups.

Unknown said...

---How many on this list, Forbes' 400, can you identify as likely Republican donors? And how many Democrat?

Yes the myth that all rich people are Republicans. I'm willing to bet that a real analysis of this list would show 70 percent donate to Democrats.

MartyH said...

Just spitballing here:

I think that we need to favor candidates and weaken proxies, parties, and third parties.

What happens if you remove limits but tax donations to campaigns and PACs progressively? (PACS higher than campaigns) The tax rate is based on how much an entity gives, and is paid by the campaign. So the first $2k you give is tax free, but if you give a million dollars is taxed at 90%. So getting fifty guys to give you $2000 each is worth the same as a single guy putting a million dollars in. Maybe money you put in yourself is taxed at a lower rate.

This tax applies to parties as well-so if the Republican Party dispenses cash to a candidate, it is taxed as well. Union donations are taxed as a single entity, not as individual members' contributions.

This does nothing to address in kind contributions by media or unions. It may make things worse. As I said, just spitballing.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Hagar said the real... corruption... lies in government grants, regulations and enforcement, and legislation.

Exactly. If you don't like what Government does with the Power the choices are:
..Do nothing;
..Change how the Government uses the Power;
..Take Power from Government; return it to yourself.

The Godfather said...

I suppose you'd worry about the effect of unlimited political contributions if you thought voters are so stupid that they'd vote for a candidate because of a video about a ditz named Julia getting cradle-to-grave benefits from the government. Or a free phone. But sensible people know better than that.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

It would mean a tiny, tiny group of donors would wield unprecedented power and influence.

Much like what we have now. "Campaign Finance Reform" has done nothing. Will do nothing.

So what's the real problem here?

Campaign finance laws not favoring your side enough? Well, piss off. Sounds like a personal problem.

Electorate too heavily influenced too by heavy campaign contributors? Possible solutions include (inter alia):
..strip the franchise from low information voters;
..raise voting age;
..limit franchise to those who have "some skin in the game" (directly pay income or property taxes).

Hyphenated American said...

It's time to nationalize New York Times and fire all it's owners. It's fir the country!

Birches said...

We have created hedges and then walls and then larger walls and motes to try and keep money out of politics. It hasn't worked at all. Why don't we remove them all and see what happens? Personally, I'd rather know directly who's giving money to a campaign, rather than have to navigate shady 501cs and what not to try and follow the money.

cubanbob said...

KnightErrant said...
The U. S. House of Representatives, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil.

9/22/13, 10:49 AM


Exxon-Mobil provide something I actually need and use which is more than I can say for most progressive NGOs and their financing of campaigns.

William said...

What is the dollar value of having the Daily Show, the Letterman monologue, 30 Rock, most news editors and motion picture directors offer a version of reality that is supportive of Democratic candidates and their programs?

ken in sc said...

As an Exxon-Mobile stock holder—and Chevron-Texaco as well, I say we are not getting our money's worth out of the current congress. I say we need more fracing and more pipelines.

Sam L. said...

And those pols would be Dems.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

If the rich donor can buy the same influence today for less than $3.6 million, aren't we leaving money on the table?

Douglas said...

Over 35 years ago, in the very first campaign finance case, the Supreme Court rejected the notion that the Constitution permits the Government to create a "level playing field" for politicians. The Court said that "the concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment, which was designed “to secure ‘the widest possible dissemina- tion of information from diverse and antagonistic sources,’ ” and “ ‘to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and so- cial changes desired by the people.’ ” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 48-49 (1976)(per curiam)(citations omitted). Chief Justice Roberts didn't invent the notion that the First Amendment protects the liberty to engage in politics, and does not permit the Government to infringe that liberty by suppressing the speech of the powerful in order to enhance the speech of the less powerful.

Bruce Hayden said...

But if he buys a major media outlet for $1 billion dollars and uses that, it's just fine.

What is a bit scary here is that al Jazerra has done just that - bought a network (wasn't this the one that AlGore wouldn't sell to Glen Beck?) and are now advertising the heck for, claiming to provide a more accurate (apparently anti-American) slant on the news.

But we really shouldn't forget NBC/MSNBC, which was owned until recently by GE, flogged for the Dems and esp President Obama unashamably, and received many billions in contracts and special favors (including getting TARP funds for its finance arm, which was made eligible in record time).

Robert Cook said...

"The elephant in the room would be the trade/Teachers/Govt. Workers Unions that give much more than Exxon Mobil in dollars...."

Yeah...those fucking commies in the Teacher's and Govt. Workers unions wield so much more influence over Congress than Exxon Mobil, General Electric, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, BP, Goldman Sachs, etc., etc.

Scott said...

The real fat cats don't donate much to candidates. It's so passé.

What they do is create 501(c)(4) "social welfare organizations," which do not have to disclose their donors. Then, they funnel the 501(c)(4) money into 527 groups, which DO have to report its donors -- but the donor of record in this case is the 501(c)(4).

Thus, big money donors blissfully flush their wealth into the public policy debate with perfect anonymity. When you see a 527 group that has only a few donors, and most of them are 501(c)(4), you know that this is exactly what is happening.

And here we are, yammering about campaign contribution limits, which in the greater scheme of things are irrelevant.

Kirk Parker said...

He's right! Exhibit one, the recent Colorado recall elections.


Oh, wait....

Marshal said...

Of course the left wants campaign contributions limited. They've subverted academia and government employment into a subsidy for leftist activism. That advantage becomes more meaningful as other speech avenues are eliminated.

Andy Freeman said...

The amount of money that an entity is allowed to contribute (including in-kind contributions) to a political campaign or party should be limited to the amount of taxes & govt fees that said entity pays to the relevant govt.

Note that the above implies that the CA state dem party will have to be financially separate from the national den party. That's a good thing.

And, pols who receive a donation should not be allowed to transfer it to someone else.