Show me the (sources of the) money

David Koch

David Koch

The reaction from the left to news the political network backed by — bogeyman alert! — the Koch brothers will spend almost $900 million on the 2016 elections has been as predictable as it is furious — and futile. Speech is, in many ways, something our left-wing friends prefer limiting rather than hearing. (Unless it’s speech from the Obama campaign, which in 2012 spent more by itself than the Kochs and their friends plan to spend on presidential and congressional politics.)

One of the complaints about the Kochs’ plan, other than the particular names involved, is that their network doesn’t have to disclose its donors. For that, you can thank the misguided McCain-Feingold reform, which didn’t limit or reform campaign finances so much as squeeze the balloon. Money that used to flow with relative transparency through candidate and party organizations now seeks a new outlet. And that new outlet doesn’t require as much sunshine.

Answering the requisite what-now question with a strong dose of reality is National Journal’s Ron Fournier:

“What’s the solution? Spending limits are off the table; like it or not, the Supreme Court is unlikely to reverse itself anytime soon. That leaves transparency as the issue to tackle. Mindful of potential First Amendment problems, Congress should revisit a policy Republicans offered in defiance of McCain-Feingold: Unlimited donations coupled with immediate transparency.

“What could be a more modern, tech-fueled reform than requiring political candidates and groups to simultaneously deposit and disclose? Open-government groups could develop apps enabling voters to track donations to certain members of Congress or from specific interest groups, with customized alerts sent to their mobile devices.

“We can’t stop a senator from being in the pocket of Big Tobacco or Big Labor, beholden to a Koch or a Soros. But we could see it — instantly. The fierce urgency of accountability.”

I think that’s right. Fournier also mentions an “amendment” to his idea offered by NBC’s Chuck Todd:

The problem with that idea is that it simply encourages more gamesmanship by campaigns and parties to slice up the donations so that they fall under that threshold. I don’t disagree with the concept of prominent, public disclosure of the big donors, but I think there’s probably a better answer. (Maybe PSAs about each candidate’s donors, funded by the money taxpayers send to presidential election campaigns via their 1040 tax forms?)

The likelihood of a regime of campaign-finance restrictions more effective than McCain-Feingold is, in my view, low. Better to make the rules about transparency — including about personal finances, particularly at the state level here in Georgia — and work to make those effective. And ultimately, whether any rules of any type can work depends on the interest or apathy of the voting public.

Reader Comments 0

51 comments
Joel Edge
Joel Edge

Their only complaining because the money isn't coming to THEM.

Penses
Penses

Good column, Kyle. I am always mystified by the clearly hypocritical whining of liberals about GOP campaign donations and spending by the "evil" Koch brothers. Are they really that obtuse that they are unable to see their hypocrisy?


In any case, hopefully most everyone is agreed that money should not buy elections. And your suggeston is a good one. Here's another, though: how about investigating and correcting the problem with our schools that college students when interviewed cannot even say who won the Civil War or who fought in it? When people buy cars because of a song and dance in an advertisement, what hope do we have of ever having a truly great democracy? 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Imagine how much better a place the world would be if they spent that money on bettering mankind


Similar to Bill and Melinda Gates.


Instead of using it to buy elections and make themselves wealthier. 

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

If you think the government has it's nose to the grindstone, you just might be gruberized. Most of them only put in a few hours a week and get paid more than you do. The Koch brothers are intelligent, how do you think they got all that coin? You don't ask your enemy for what you want, you ask for twice as much as you really want and let them negotiate it back down to where you wanted it to be in the first place. That's why they tell the libs they want to get rid of the entire government, because after all the whining and moaning has been done, they might wind up with half of it.


We gotta have an army, right?


I admire those guys.

Starik
Starik

I would hope that conservatives, moderates and liberals would all be uneasy that the amount of political influence a person has is dependent on how wealthy that person is.  Reinstate spending limits.  Do it by a Constitutional amendment.  That's the remedy when the Supreme Court does something stupid.

TBS
TBS

Good artilce.

All sources of funds whether they are going directly to the party, the politician and all organizations participating in the political process should be made public.

Not sure why certain people and organizations wish to be so secretive about their contributions.

Seems they would be proud of their efforts but for whatever reason we know that is not the case. 

I don't agree with all this spending from any side but if you want to give then do it freely and out in the open. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

McCain-Feingold...the unintended consequences, about which, liberals no nothing.

Deposit and disclose? I like it!

Of course, the left-leaning media types will embrace the opportunity to slander anyone who appears on the GOP's donor list. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

With the Supreme Court we have now, nothing can be done about the corrupting effect of the huge amounts of money in politics, therefore we at least want to know who is doing the corrupting.


It would be better than nothing, but that does not say much.

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

The Left doesn't mind money as long as its their money. Funny, huh?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Thanks for this, Kyle.

I am a little surprised that the sad history of the DISCLOSE act--which was filibustered after it was introduced in 2010, and couldn't get the 60 votes needed to end cloture--hasn't been mentioned, though. 

Butch Clark
Butch Clark

I have never seen a libeal daunted by anything but the truth..

SommerDaey
SommerDaey

By the late 1980's, the Koch brothers had soured on the Libertarian Party, concluding that control of a small party would never give them the muscle they sought in the nation's capital. Now they would spend millions in efforts to influence – and ultimately take over – the GOP.

SommerDaey
SommerDaey

from David Koch's 1980 Libertarian VP Run platform, (ran against Reagan)
What Koch Libertarians eventually want:

“We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
“We favor the repeal of the Social Security system."
“We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
“We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
“We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
“We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
“As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
“We support repeal of all laws such as minimum wage laws.
“We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
“We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
“We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
“We call for the dissolution of the Department of Transportation.”
“We demand the return of America's railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
“We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs."
“We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
“We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@SommerDaey What they are calling for is basically having no functioning Government whatsoever.


Which seems to work so well in Somalia. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@SommerDaey Amazing isn't it, how America existed without all these things from 1781-1931.  Now the proggies are going through our garbage to make sure we recycle and don't throw away too many food scraps.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@RafeHollister Yep, back then, by age 40, you had no teeth of your own and were usually dead by 60.  Good times!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Kyle, campaigning for full transparency in campaign contributions is an exercise in futility. At some level both major parties are going to legislate to ensure there are loopholes to exploit. Honesty and full disclosure in politics and government? What planet are you on?

Shar1
Shar1

Those who give and those who get are both focused on preserving the status quo under which they have enriched and empowered themselves.  There is absolutely no chance that any of them will accept a change in the corrupt system they've created unless they are forced to by those of us whose power and treasure they have taken.


Amending the Constitution is the better way to do it, unless we are prepared for Jefferson's "revolution every ten years." 

 No politician should be able to accept anything at all - including coordination with outside donor campaigns - that is not freely available to every one of his or her constituents.

All political campaigns should be paid for by the public.  Election durations should be limited to 6 weeks for a primary and 8 for a general election - the ability to speak effectively is central to a political job, and if a candidate cannot speak sufficiently effectively in that period of time to get elected he or she needs to go home. 


Speech is not money and corporations are not people.  Any political advertising not paid for by the public must identify every single donor and their city of residence, every single time.  And donations to such advertising should not be tax deductible.

Civic responsibility should be extended from jury duty to include voting and district drawing.  No political group should be allowed access to the districting process.


Any of these changes would be anathema to those who benefit from our current system, precisely because they would empower the rest of us.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@Shar1  "corporations are not people"


Ha. Please tell that to the USG and the IRS. The law says different.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Gee, imagine if Georgia's teachers could really see where their union dues end up: at least those belonging to the National Education Association's local unit, the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE).

They can google "NEA" and "contributions" to get an idea. But that information's often not up to date.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine In fact a full 32 percent of the money Obama raised came from those small donors.


For the Republican Mittens that number drops dramatically go 17 percent.


The difference is very telling. 

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

@IReportYouWhine

What's up with the odd capitalization and misspelling of United States President Barack H. Obama's name?  Is he expected to be insulted by it?  Is he aware of it?  Do you think he cares of he is?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

“We have said that government regulation may not target the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford. ‘Ingratiation and access … are not corruption’ (Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, 2010). They embody a central feature of democracy, that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”


What a ridiculous statement that even one of Peggy Noonan's 5th graders could see through. 

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Yeah, your side doesn't receive any contributions from private businesses, it all just money that floated down from the heavens, blah, blah, blah.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

The big problem with the disclosure idea is that people like harry reid will demonize #136 from the list of contributors on the floor of the US Senate, simply for giving money to his political opponent. Not to mention getting the irs sicced on them by all the progs in government. The law that needs to be passed is the "protection of your constitutional right to redress grievances" and that should include provisions for the imprisonment of any and all government employees that use this information to exact any of sort of retribution. 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@IReportYouWhine Freedom of speech to criticize #136.  

Also freedom of speech for the American Public to criticize #1-135, and #137-8000, of either side.


Agree with you that retribution is outside of free speech, but that should not stop transparency in the process. 

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

The are merely rich punks, nothing more nothing less.  They are not alone and not to be admired.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

I'm sick and tired of Republicans concern of playing fair with Democrats.

The last straw should have been when Dems pushed through Obamacare under Reconciliation without the first Republican vote.

Why are we worried of what the Democrats want or that we are fair?  They have neither consideration for us.

It's way past time for Republicans to grow a pair.

It's time to stomp out the Democrats before so many people are getting free stuff through the Government that we cannot win.

If we lose the White House in 2016, we may never recover.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@LogicalDude @JohnnyReb - I do not know the details of all the campaign financing laws.

I have concerns of no illegal or foreign money, but other than that, no. 

SommerDaey
SommerDaey

@JohnnyReb - "free stuff"??

But giving "freebies" via (Mitt's plan) capital gains tax cuts to 0% (primary income of rich)
 or giving "freebies" via corporate welfare to Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Corporate Farmers, ...
 or giving "freebies" via adding yet another $2Trillion of American taxpayers money to the already bloated Military Industrial Complex is just fine to the extreme right-wing tea party Republicans.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

All politicians at the national level are bought and paid for.  The only difference is who bought them, the left or the right.  Maybe we should require they wear patches on their expensive suits like NASCAR drivers, showing who is sponsoring whom.  The proggies, who like to remain willfully ignorant of how much on the take their guys are, would be surprised at all the Wall Street patches their candidates would be wearing.  


Hillary might not be able to stand up straight, if she had to add all those Wall St and Soros patches to her ubiquitous pant suit. 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@RafeHollister "The only difference is who bought them, the left or the right.  "

Not that there is much of a difference anymore. :) 


Those bills that pass with a minimal partisan margin?  Yeah, everyone knows it'll pass, but a "no" vote sounds good back home, so even if they support the bill, it's better for them to sell re-election by being against it.  It comes with dollars too, so politicians need to pick and choose where they can get some money for a vote, where they can get re-election points for a vote, or where they can trade a vote for something else they want. 

It's like professional wrestling.  They make a great show in the ring, and then have drinks together afterwards laughing how they duped the audience and planning the next big ring circus act. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@LogicalDude @RafeHollister Amen, on that we agree.  


I like the professional wrestling link, never thought of it that way.  The way the GOP ran on opposing the Amnesty and then got back to Washington and immediately started with the excuses, is perfect proof.    I believed that "rassling" stuff was real, until I was about 7, when I convinced my father to take to me to a match in person.  When I saw the two main event longtime antagonists show up car pooling in the same car, we left.  I think my father pointed that out, to save himself the price of admission and the torture of having to sit through the play.


straker
straker

Once Big Money gets a grip on our politicians, you'll find its next to impossible to undo it.


Only in America.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Good article Kyle.  I agree that with the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court (basically "no, corruption doesn't exist or even pretend to exist just because a lot of money flows around") gives no leverage to either party to restrict funding.  Opening transparency is a good idea. 

Get rid of invisible money and bring it all into the open.  It won't fix the actual corruption (Kochs are basically saying "if you'll do this to support us, we'll throw a lot of money your way") 



ByteMe
ByteMe

It's a good idea, but unlikely to happen, because those who want to spend dark money are not going to like it.