Archive for the ‘campaign financing’ category

The Money Hunt

September 23, 2016

Here is a quandary. What does one do if a political party or candidate continually asks for money? For the sake of argument, one might actually support the party or candidate, but asking all the time is a bit much.

What if the opposite party or candidate represents all that is unacceptable? Is this reason enough to contribute to one party or candidate? Why is one contribution not enough?

In fact what does one do if one gives to one candidate and suddenly receives email requests from a half dozen other candidates from the same party? And, what if theses email request arrive several time a day from the same candidate?

There are two easy answers. (1) Send a small amount, and (2) ignore the request completely.

Soliciting money is an art form. Soliciting a lot of money separates the adults from the kids. For these money raisers, the issue seems to be “money”, not the candidate or what the candidate represents.  (Consider all the special causes, like hospitals, diseases, or groups like veterans who are proposed as reasons to give and subsequently we find less than half the money collected goes actually to that charity.  Hmmm.)

Political money solicitation is actually part of an extensive food chain. These bags of money fund a host of others who strategize, coordinate, plan, and execute campaign operations. This money fuels speech writing, TV advertisements, van drivers, office space, and campaign events. Campaign buttons, signage, wardrobe and make up artists, and even lunch runners, all feed off this same food chain.

In short, if you give more, the candidate or the campaign spends it. (In some cases, candidates stockpile excess money and use it later for themselves and to influence others.)

It appears clear, politics is now fought with dollar bills, not great ideas or sound policies.

When the dust is settled in November, news reports and full length magazine articles will turn up recounting the “billions” spent in 2016 for the alleged purpose of electing Congressional and Presidential candidates. The gist will be how much money was spent with so little insight into the next 4 years. Reports will probe where the money came from… like billionaire X, Y, or Z.

Reports are very unlikely to list who received the campaign spend, like TV station or network Q, R, or S. And most likely there will be no inventory of the usual suspects who acted as advisors, strategists, and field leaders, or what these individuals received in renumeration.

This modern political world is not about policy, not about ideology, and not about telling the truth. Rather, modern politics is about the next 4 year viability surrounding the generation of money.

As long as the major parties can generate huge sums of money whether they win or lose, who cares? Like Major League Baseball, a losing campaign which can still attract money can hire the best of the rest, in essence restocking their back stage team (not the candidates) in the run up to the next election. These political pros will sleep well knowing they have good paying jobs until the next election and can put their minds to doing what they do, this time for a new candidate.

So, back to the original question, what does one do about the bombardment of email requests for money?

I would recommend (1) no contributions period. Candidates will attract enough money directly form people who could directly benefit from the candidate or party’s influence (like corporations, billionaires, and special interests). And, (2) if you are a strong supporter for an issue, policy, or broad ideology, I would suggest a single donation and no more. This single donation should satisfy one’s conscience while not contributing greatly to the wasteful use of campaign donations.

The Business OF Politics

July 6, 2015

The Washington Post reported that Ted Cruz raised $10 million in the second quarter and a total of $14.2 million since announcing his candidacy. In addition, his super PACs have raised an additional $37 million. That’s a lot of money (and he’s not done yet) for someone who has about zero chance of gaining the GOP Presidential nomination.

So $25.2 million that Cruz directly controls and another $37 million “uncoordinated” (my foot it is uncoordinated) is over $60 million to flow through a lot of hands. Hmmm.

Could a creative person divert 10-20% through selective business entities that provide services to the candidate? Or even better, what if these campaign funds purchased services from a business that in turn purchased services from etc until the money made it to Cruz or a family member?

Hold on, I am not accusing Ted Cruz of any illegalities, I am simply asking what if?

Most likely, only the crassest and least sophisticated politician directly syphons off money from their super PACs or direct campaign funds. The experienced politicians, I would prefer to think, would instead steer the money towards purchasing necessary services from those who would later throw business, influence, or favors back to the candidate (who presumably would be back in civilian life). Hmmm.

With 16 GOP and 5 Democrat candidates, it is not hard to imagine a cottage industry flourishing around Presidential, Congressional, and Governor races. Billions will be thrown at the 2016 Presidential race alone. And among friends what’s a few hundred million?

One must wonder why the Supreme Court chose to throw out campaign donation limits? Was it a clever plot to trap unsuspecting and greedy politicians? Or, was it a conspiracy of sorts to throw temporary advantage to conservatives who were suspected of having more money to distort public opinions? Hmmm.

Think about it.  Free speech being equated to corporations and unlimited spending seems far removed from the average voter. How could “Joe Average” compete with the Koch Brothers in mounting a civil debate over public policy? Hmmm.

It almost seems that candidates garnering some of the political donations for themselves is the lesser of the real problems created by Citizens United.

2016 Great Issue?

June 6, 2015

As the 2016 Presidential Election approaches, what do you think the average American will be thinking and wanting to hear his/her favorite candidate speak to? Will it be healthcare, national security, jobs, or what?

The economy has been narrowly the decider in the last two Presidential elections.  There were several key secondary issues which swung the election to the Democrats. For example, thanks to the GOP’s platform (and primary rhetoric), Democrats could appeal to Hispanics (immigration), African Americans (voting rights), women (personal health choices), and gays (equal protection) and promise to do better. Foreign policy and its cousin national security were not deciders in people’s voting decisions (except for no votes over Iraq). What about this time.

If the GOP has learned anything from 2008 and 2012, they will tone down their “base” issues (those notions which appeal to their religious and strongly conservative members). If this is accomplished, then they can appeal to Americans to favor the GOP’s economic ideas, their national security positions, and potentially paint some glowing picture of the future. Democrats will try to talk about income inequality but will have a tougher time speaking positively about national security since recent events took place on their watch.

Adding to Democrats worries there are some indicators that the economy is slowing down. In one sense this should be expected as a normal characteristic of a free economy (x years of growth, y years of contraction, then growth again). If Democrats have managed the economy well, the slow down should be slight and relatively brief. The problem, however, is that a shrinking economy at election time will favor the GOP and its recovery will likely happen under a GOP President.

With respect to national security and foreign policy, world events have caused the Obama Administration to adjust to external stimuli rather than cause them. It is, however, difficult to think how the US could have altered Russia, China, or Iran’s behavior in a direct and decisive way. Voters can expect the GOP to say world events would be different if we were in power.

Voters don’t remember well and even fewer can grasp the connection of invading Iraq with the formation of ISIS.

At this point, Democrats had better be praying that the GOP goes off reservation again. With close to 20 GOP hopefuls, this is not a wild impossibility. in such an event the 2016 election may tip back towards Democrats.

Regrettably, neither party seems willing or able to step up to these more serious problems:

  • Campaign financing which has lead directly to a special interest bound Congress and gridlock.
  • Affordable Universal Healthcare which is as good as Europe’s and at half our current cost.
  • Paying now for Government Services (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Military).
  • Forming a multi-pole foreign policy (recognizing we must deal with Russia, China, Europe, and certain other countries as sovereign States).

Forty Thousand Can’t Be Wrong, 5 Can

May 4, 2015

In Philadelphia on Sunday, 40,000 runners ran down Broad Street (which splits the city into halves) from North Philadelphia to the Navy yard in deep South Philly. There were probably 1000 or so top class runners leaving 39,000 fun runners clocking times from 7 to 11+ minutes per mile. It was a spirited race atmosphere.  Impromptu bands played free all long the path. Rocky music can be heard at various places to help keep the runner’s spirits soaring.

The Broad Street Run is one of many events sponsored and supported (all or in part) by the City of Philadelphia where anyone can participate. On these days, anyone can be a Philadelphian.

Most runners wore normal running gear. Many of them wore shirts proclaiming memory or support for someone sick, less fortunate or symbolic of some greater good. Spectators lined the Street and were fully engaged.  They offered “hand slaps” as runner passed by and cheered “doing great, keep it up”.

The run involved everyone even though there was little prize money and none beyond the top two or three men, women, and wheel chair entires. Involvement came from sheer enjoyment of living.

The Broad Street Run is an example of something money can’t buy. The 2016 Presidential election, however, may be something that can be bought, and if not, there will be mind blowing amounts of money spent trying.

The Federal Election Commission chairwomen said in a recent speech that the FEC was powerless to enforce campaign financing rules for the 2016 election. As a consequent, the path is clear for untold amounts of money to be raised and spent by completely opaque super PACs.

The Supreme Court has told us in a 5-4 decision that this unlimited spending funneled through corporations is actually an exercise of free speech. The Court’s decision seemed wrong headed when first made, and now as each year brings even more unchecked spending, I just wonder whether the Justices can still sleep well at night.

Ironically, many pundits seem concerned about certain donations to the Clinton Foundation by foreigners. The implication seems that foreign interests might gain favors from a President Hillary Clinton following generous donations to the Clinton Global Initiative. Hmmm.

With opaque super PAC rules, actual donors remain anonymous. Hmmm.

I wonder why foreign interests are not being mentioned as a risk with Super PACs? Or did the Supreme Court feel they get free speech too?