Minnesota Liberal

Saturday, March 13, 2004

All About the Benjamins

Campaign financing is one of the most dreadful subjects. To begin with, the normal person (myself included) doesn't understand the rules and regulations. There are so many different types of political organizations, IRS filing distinctions, individual donor limits, and etc. that it is very easy to become confused. So when John McCain started whining about "soft money" Democratic groups I thought I would do a little homework. Soft money is a term used to describe donations made to 527 organizations. 527 is the tax-exempt code given to non-profit political committees by the IRS. They can fundraise and spend money however they like, except they cannot contribute money to political candidates.

For the past year or so, many Republicans have been crying out against these organizations. They believe it is a loophole in the current campaign finance law to allow these groups to spend money in a partisan manner (i.e. commercials against President Bush). The Bush administration is starting to get in on the act of bashing these groups as well. In particular, the Republicans are going after a group called Media Fund. Media Fund has become notorious to conservatives because they are in the midst of a $5 million dollar ad campaign critisizing Bush. The commercial has played quite a bit here in Minnesota and in other states throughout the country. This has the Bushies pissed. They claim that groups like Media Fund are illegal. George Soros, a major financial backer of several 527's, is being crowned the new king of "evil rich Dems." But what they don't tell you is that the commercial does not mention John Kerry a single time. It can't. That would be illegal. But as long as a group is just voicing their opposition to a politician's political viewpoint, what is wrong? It seems to me that by limiting a 527's funding or preventing them from running these types of commercials is a violation of free speech.

And by the way, I wonder what Bush would say about the Bush/Cheney 2000 Inc.-Recount Fund. It raised over $11 million. Or the Republican Governors Association. I am sure it is just a coincidence that their list of top donors is full of pharmaceutical companies. No special interests there. How about the College Republican National Committee. I wonder if that is a partisan political group? Like usual- the elephants want to have it both ways.

The point I guess I am trying to make is that if a millionaire like Soros wants to spend $5 million dollars to produce commericals saying he doesn't like Bush's policies, he should be able to. He is following all of the rules that prohibit him from coordinating his activities with those of Kerry. So what is the big deal.

And why doesn't anyone call the Republicans on their shit either. My interesting factoid of the week: Employees and directors of Enron had given $623,000 to Bush over the course of his political career. That includes $220,700 from executives and directors named in the lawsuit brought against the company. Bush received $74,200 from the top 24 executives and board members in the 2000 election alone. Also, take a look at Bush's top campaign contributors throughout his career. And no one seemed to care when Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was shown to have actually broken campaign laws. He didn't just find a loophole, he broke the law. But he won anyway. Then later we found out that he hadn't even reported significant amounts of income he had made from "independant consulting" for a friends company (which happened while he was running for Governor). He has never been able to document what his "consulting" consisted of or why his friend felt the need to pay him a couple hundred thousand dollars for no such work. It seems pretty plain to me that this was an illegal campaign contribution deliberately disguised as real income.

There are tons for great research tools for following the money:
The Center for Public Integrity
Follow the Money
Federal Elections Commission
Political Money Line