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Posted at 4:24 PM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Why the DNC plan to nix corporate contributions to convention matters

By Greg Sargent

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that there's been surprisingly little written by opinionmakers about the plan by Obama and Dems to nix direct corporate contributions funding the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The plan is an "important first step" in closing the last remaining hole that allows unlimited corporate cash to flow to parties, according to a non-partisan campaign finance expert I spoke with today. But after it was announced on Friday, the plan sank like a stone and has sparked little if any commentary.

In case you missed it -- and you probably did -- DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse put out a statement late Friday afternoon announcing that for the first time, the convention will take no direct funding from corporations. "Obama has placed a high priority on increasing the influence of grassroots and individual donors, and this convention will go further in that direction than any convention ever," Woodhouse said.

An RNC spokesperson immediately scoffed at the plan, noting that lobbyists and unions can still contribute: "it's clear this rule isn't worth the paper it's written on."

This is not really true, however. I checked in with Fred Wertheimer, the president of the non-partisan Democracy 21, and he supplied some invaluable context.

Wertheimer allowed that the plan is somewhat limited. He said it won't stop massive amounts of money funding the convention from wealthy individuals and so-called "in-kind" contributions, in which companies contribute goods and services. "There will still be significant sums of money coming in from individuals and corporations in the form of in-kind contributions that we believe should not be there," he said.

But he also said that the Dem plan is significant, because it reflects a recognition that there's a serious problem here, and he confirmed that Dems are right to say it's unprecedented. "This is the first time anyone has made any kind of effort to address the problem of unlimited money being used to finance our presidential conventions," he said. "It will be interesting to see if Republicans are prepared to do anything similar."

It's unclear how far this plan will go in fulfilling Obama's goal of enhancing the power of grassroots donors; huge amounts of money from wealthy individuals and companies will still fund the convention. But with Republicans continuing to support Citizens United even as they are expected to benefit from huge amounts of secret corporate cash in 2012, Dems will be able to point to their "important first step" in order to try to set up a major clash between the parties over the role of corporate money and special interests in our politics. This will loom larger down the road.

By Greg Sargent  | February 8, 2011; 4:24 PM ET
Categories:  2012, Campaign finance  
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Next: Happy Hour Roundup

Comments

I would love to see *both* parties and the public generally do an about face on the obscene amounts of money it takes to run a campaign. I'd love to see everyone "out-poorhouse" each other.

Hell, we got rid of slavery, segregation and women almost get paid as much as men. And we sent folks to the moon. Someday we'll recognize that money and Democracy are uncomfortable bedfellows (the g*y kind, of course).

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | February 8, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that there's been surprisingly little written by opinionmakers about the plan by Obama and Dems to nix direct corporate contributions funding the 2012 Democratic National Convention."

Everyone has assumed this is a joke. Who cares about the convention. The real issue is donations to the campaign itself. Given that Obama is ramping up his 2012 fundraising efforts based on large donations lead by his "top team" of Wall Street bankers, this is transparently hypocritical stunt, nothing more.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/27/AR2011012707307.html

When it comes to Obama and reducing the role of lobbyists, people have stopped listening. Obama lost the reform mantle when he declined to keep his promise from 2008 to accept the matching funds and spending limits in the general Presidential campaign if the Republican candidate (McCain) did, and then the subsequent moves of White House insiders like Peter Orzag to CitiGroup reveals that Obama's ethics reform talk is just that, talk.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/29/AR2010122902721.html

Posted by: jnc4p | February 8, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p, I don't know about the larger point you raise, but Wertheimer, who has spent probably decades thinking about these issues, says the plan is in some ways significant.

and, yes, Chuck, one o' these days. :)

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 8, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Wow, jnc4p. I have rarely seen anyone skewer Obama (and Greg) so effectively.

Good stuff!

Posted by: sbj3 | February 8, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I think the time has come to seek a constitutional amendment, that would allow only individual unpaid citizens to lobby their own representatives.

Check this out:

"More Than Half Of The Responses To Issa’s Job Creation Survey Came From Lobbyists "

http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/08/issa-survey-regs/

"Yesterday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) released the responses he received to a request he made last month for business, trade associations, and think tanks to identify regulations that they’d like to see eliminated or reduced. Many of the responses took aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, but there was plenty of concern reserved for regulations from both the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Issa is pitching this product as the manifestation of Congress finally listening to “job creators.” In fact, his new website for soliciting further responses is located at “americanjobcreators.com.” “This project is an opportunity for private industry to put forward detailed and specific examples so that both the American people and policymakers can determine for themselves what actions can be taken to create jobs,” Issa said in a statement paired with the release of the responses.

But who actually responded to Issa’s request? According to a ThinkProgress analysis, more than half his responses came from lobbyists and trade organizations, not actual business owners:

– 106 lobbying organizations, including the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the Business Roundtable

– 47 businesses, including American Express, Boeing, Ford, and a group of small businesses

– 26 individuals (18 of them unidentified)

– The Heritage Foundation and George Mason’s Mercatus Center"

Posted by: Liam-still | February 8, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

As long as people like the despicable Koch brothers are able to spend tens of millions for the right to pollute the atmosphere and poison our futures no one is really safe. Had Dante foreseen such people, he would have made appropriate accommodations for them.

Posted by: Mimikatz | February 8, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

sbj, I'm surprised you agree with that take. It seems startlingly lacking in nuance.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 8, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

"This will loom larger down the road."

No, it won't. It is not an important first step, it is a stunt, properly ignored

Posted by: shrink2 | February 8, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Greg,

SBJ does not do nuance. Remember he is the one who kept sending contributions to rabid gay bashing Sharron Angle, and later on he started bashing Harry Reid for not getting DADT repealed fast enough.

SBJ is in the same class as STFR and Claw/AKA JakeD, when it comes to blind partisanship at all times.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 8, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Keep all the money you can get, Obama. You are totally out-gunned. The problem is not that you take corporate money. The problem is that the Supreme Court can't tell the difference between a US citizen/voter and a multi-national corporation. The best course is to lie like the opposition. Take the money under the table or set up a money-laundering entity like the Chamber of Commerce to spin and hide where the money comes from. I think you know this already.

Posted by: LillithMc | February 8, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

@Greg Sargent "sbj, I'm surprised you agree with that take. It seems startlingly lacking in nuance."

Read the Washington Post article I linked Greg and see what you think:

"The White House reelection bid will test the enthusiasm of small donors, who might prove discouraged by the centrist bent and the policy compromises of Obama's administration. Big-dollar donors expect to be in greater demand.

"The president's shift to the center has renewed my . . . interest, enthusiasm and support for him," said Myers, who added he wasn't alone among his peers. He plans to play a large role in presidential fundraising this cycle. "My guess is that he is going to do better with people writing large checks."

Myers, who has been invited to the Hartley fundraiser and is a top donor to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), said that the $1 billion target for total money raised is both floating around fundraising circles and not out of bounds.

"It sounds incredibly aggressive," he said. "But I think it's very doable."

If Obama hopes to hit such a mark, he'll need his top team on board. According to the prominent Obama donor, the president's core group of financial backers including Orin Kramer, an investor at Boston Provident; Mark T. Gallogly a co-founder of Centerbridge Partners; Jamie Rubin, an investor at BC Partners; and Robert Wolf, president of UBS Investment Bank, remains intact. "

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/27/AR2011012707307.html

If a Republican Presidential candidate was launching a fundraising effort to raise $1 billion dollars with a team lead by hedge fund managers and Wall Street bankers, including the head of UBS which had to settle charges with the Justice Department of helping wealthy Americans illegally avoid taxes through off shore accounts, you would be all over it with denunciations of corporate influence, the pernicious influence of the Citizens United decision, etc. Because it's President Obama doing this, he gets a free pass from the Plum Line.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 8, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

@Greg: sbj, I'm surprised you agree with that take. It seems startlingly lacking in nuance."

True - it does lack nuance. But in this case that is just what the doctor ordered. It allows us all to see the bigger picture - as you seemed to acknowledge.

Posted by: sbj3 | February 8, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

You don't have to take the money under the table, it comes across the top of the table and no one gets to know whose money is in the bag. Laundering is illegal, unnecessary and frankly, passé.

People blame Steele for the RNC debt. Wrong. Citizens United let Rove and Gillespie grab the big bucks that would have gone through the party in the past.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 8, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

@shrink2 "You don't have to take the money under the table, it comes across the top of the table and no one gets to know whose money is in the bag. Laundering is illegal, unnecessary and frankly, passé.

People blame Steele for the RNC debt. Wrong. Citizens United let Rove and Gillespie grab the big bucks that would have gone through the party in the past."

That, coupled with the existing restrictions on donations to parties and candidates.

The idea that you are going to get money "out" of Federal elections is laughable. The most you can hope for is transparency, if you are lucky.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 8, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I propose that President Obama and The Republican Nominee campaign together across the entire country, and debate the issues, where ever they appear. That would greatly reduce the need for to raise much ad money, on either side, because where ever they went, TV would be sure to cover the debates.

JFK had made a deal with his friend Barry Goldwater; that should Barry win the nomination, they would have done just that. Alas; JFK was murdered, so it never came to pass.

2012 would be a great time to do it, in memory of both JFK and his good friend Senator Goldwater.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 8, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p, I think the notion that obama has "moved to the center" is garbage, as do Politico's John Harris and Jim VandeHei, hardly partisans. I couldn't give two turds if some dumb donor is too thick to understand what's happening and as a result is going to write more checks to Obama. Who cares what they say? It doesn't tell us anything.

And if you think this latest measure is meaningless, take it up with Fred Wertheimer, who is thoroughly nonpartisan, and has been thinking about these issues for decades.

It dumbs down the discussion to say that Obama is nothing but a corporate stooge who has totally forfeited his reform mantle. It's just silly.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 8, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

@liam re debates: McCain already tried similar with Obama in 2008 but Obama was not on board.

"John McCain said Wednesday that he had proposed a series of town hall-style meetings across the country with Barack Obama.

"... I don’t think we need any big media-run productions, no process questions from reporters, no spin rooms. Just two Americans running for the highest office in the greatest nation on Earth responding to the concerns of the people whose trust we must earn."

"... McCain suggested 10 town halls, one a week, to be held before the Democratic Convention at the end of August. They would be 60 to 90 minutes each and have blind questions, an independent moderator and a live audience of 200 to 400 voters selected by a polling organization such as Gallup."

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2008/jun/05/mccain-proposes-series-of-town-hall-debates/

Posted by: sbj3 | February 8, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

"That, coupled with the existing restrictions on donations to parties and candidates." Yes, exactly. The idea that no "corporate" money going to a convention (where the outcome is predetermined and the pay-to-play channels are all set up), the idea that is an "important first step" is an argument that lacks nuance, because it is a knee slapper.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 8, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Read this, and then demand that Republicans explain why no jobs have been created with all their tax cuts, for their Fat Cat Puppet Masters:

From Politicalwire.com

"Taxes Lowest Since 1950
The AP notes that as a share of the nation's economy, federal taxation "will be the lowest since 1950, when the Korean War was just getting under way. And for the third straight year, American families and businesses will pay less in federal taxes than they did under former President George W. Bush, thanks to a weak economy and a growing number of tax breaks for the wealthy and poor alike." "

Posted by: Liam-still | February 8, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

@Greg Sargent

"And if you think this latest measure is meaningless, take it up with Fred Wertheimer, who is thoroughly nonpartisan, and has been thinking about these issues for decades."

It's meaningless because as shrink2 points out, the world has moved on after Citizens United. Frankly, weakening the parties by putting more limitations on them and the candidates is the wrong way to go because it leads to even less accountability.

"It dumbs down the discussion to say that Obama is nothing but a corporate stooge who has totally forfeited his reform mantle. It's just silly."

I didn't say he was a corporate stooge. I am saying he's a hypocrite who uses the mantle of campaign reform as a club to beat up Republicans when convenient, but when push comes to shove will do whatever it takes to win reelection. He doesn't have to apologize for using all legal means at his disposal to try to win reelection, but he should stop with the sanctimonious lectures about how he's noble and pure when it comes to campaign finance and everyone else is corrupt while at the same time he's launching a fund-raising effort to raise $1 billion dollars from large donors on Wall Street.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 8, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Greg

I did not miss the dissing of corporate contributions for the democratic Convention AND I asked if that included ALL corporate contributions for ALL the parties and meal put on by ALL the State delegations -


MEANING NO LOOPHOLES, NO NUANCES.


That was the QUESTION YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN GETTING THE ANSWER TO.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | February 8, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

"...uses the mantle of campaign reform as a club to beat up Republicans when convenient..." Maybe my memory is fading, but I thought he used that to beat up The Clintons, then when he got past them, he pretty much forgot about it until he attacked CU in the first SOTU.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 8, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"It's meaningless because as shrink2 points out, the world has moved on after Citizens United."

Oh really? Some of us are still very concerned about the absolute flood of murky money flowing in from the likes of the Koch brothers. It's poisonous. There's no transparency. There's no honesty. There's no accountability. And all of you republicans who think it's a great idea, well wait until your ox gets gored.

Because believe me, eventually it will.

Posted by: lcrider1 | February 8, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

On an unrelated subject (perhaps for today's wrap up):

"Obama to propose relief for states burdened by debt from unemployment benefits"

"Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 4:07 PM

Heavily indebted states could get immediate relief from the Obama administration under a plan to temporarily suspend interest payments they owe the federal government for borrowing money to cover the soaring cost of unemployment benefits.

The proposal, to be included in the budget request President Obama will send to Congress next week, would also temporarily relieve states with elevated debt from having to automatically raise taxes on employers so the loans can be repaid.

But starting in 2014, the proposal would more than double the portion of workers' wages subject to the unemployment insurance tax that employers pay. This increase, from $7,000 to $15,000, would be aimed at raising revenue to repay the federal government. "

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/08/AR2011020803176.html

Posted by: jnc4p | February 8, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

@lcrider1 ""It's meaningless because as shrink2 points out, the world has moved on after Citizens United."

Oh really? Some of us are still very concerned about the absolute flood of murky money flowing in from the likes of the Koch brothers. It's poisonous. There's no transparency. There's no honesty. There's no accountability. And all of you republicans who think it's a great idea, well wait until your ox gets gored.

Because believe me, eventually it will."

Assuming for sake of argument that all of your assertions are true, how does banning corporate contributions to the Democratic National Convention (leaving aside the issue of the loopholes) address the issue of outside groups that can now raise and spend unlimited money due to the Citizens United decision?

I would argue that it makes matters worse as the parties and the candidates actual campaigns tend to be more accountable and transparent than the outside groups.

Regardless, as an ""important first step" in order to try to set up a major clash between the parties over the role of corporate money and special interests in our politics" (see Greg's last paragraph in the post) it will fall short given the contradiction between this action and Obama's other fund-raising activities involving large donors.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 8, 2011 6:01 PM | Report abuse

OT - whoever at FOX has been leaking internal documents is still at it...

http://mediamatters.org/blog/201102080014

Posted by: bernielatham | February 8, 2011 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I agree that this is significant. Party conventions should not be sponsored by corporations. Maybe it's just a nuance, but I'm personally glad the Democratic party recognizes it.

Posted by: Beeliever | February 8, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

What does this accomplish? Democrats will stop taking corporate money, Republicans won't. Given the severe disadvantage Dems have in terms of money, what will this accomplish? We already saw the Republican response and immediately every Conservative here Independently Came Up With the same conclusion.

The only upshot of this is that the Dems will have less money to spend.

Posted by: DDAWD | February 8, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

"OT - whoever at FOX has been leaking internal documents is still at it...

http://mediamatters.org/blog/201102080014"

Haha, that's awesome. Yet another example of Conservatives Independently Coming Up With something.

Posted by: DDAWD | February 8, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

jnc writes

When it comes to Obama and reducing the role of lobbyists, people have stopped listening. Obama lost the reform mantle when he declined to keep his promise from 2008 to accept the matching funds and spending limits in the general Presidential campaign if the Republican candidate (McCain) did, and then the subsequent moves of White House insiders like Peter Orzag to CitiGroup reveals that Obama's ethics reform talk is just that, talk.

____________________________

BRAVO 100% correct.

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | February 8, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse


Greg

I did not miss the dissing of corporate contributions for the democratic Convention AND I asked if that included ALL corporate contributions for ALL the parties and meal put on by ALL the State delegations -


MEANING NO LOOPHOLES, NO NUANCES.


That was the QUESTION YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN GETTING THE ANSWER TO.


.

___________________________________

When it comes to Obama and reducing the role of lobbyists, people have stopped listening. Obama lost the reform mantle when he declined to keep his promise from 2008 to accept the matching funds and spending limits in the general Presidential campaign if the Republican candidate (McCain) did, and then the subsequent moves of White House insiders like Peter Orzag to CitiGroup reveals that Obama's ethics reform talk is just that, talk.

Posted by: RainForestRising | February 8, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Not that I predicted it or anything but Kristol chucks Palin over the edge...

http://mobile.salon.com/politics/war_room/2011/02/08/kristol_disappointed_palin/index.html

Posted by: bernielatham | February 8, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse


Greg

I did not miss the dissing of corporate contributions for the democratic Convention AND I asked if that included ALL corporate contributions for ALL the parties and meals put on by ALL the State delegations -


MEANING NO LOOPHOLES, NO NUANCES.


That was the QUESTION YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN GETTING THE ANSWER TO.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | February 8, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

All, Happy Hour Roundup posted:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/02/happy_hour_roundup_182.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 8, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

@jn4cp:

On lobbyists, you and the RNC are just flat wrong. The DNC has not accepted any contributions from registered Federal lobbyists since the election. The campaign will continue this practice. It is the first thing they screen for.

On your point about large checks; lets remember when we say large checks here we are talking about a $2,400 max for primary and same for the general (It was $2300 last cycle) from an individual. Corporate donations are illegal (PACs are different, but there are complicated rules about coordinating with campaigns). Obviously, rich people still are courted because they can round up (bundle) the same size contribs from their friends. I agree this continues to be problematic but is by no means something unique to Barack Obama and the amounts involved need to be put in perspective.

But you imply (and I think it is popularly believed) that rich guys are writing checks for $5M or something. Things like conventions and inaugurations are a bit of an exception to these rules, and so banning corporate contribs is a major step.

Posted by: jbossch | February 8, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

"Obviously, rich people still are courted because they can round up (bundle) the same size contribs from their friends. I agree this continues to be problematic but is by no means something unique to Barack Obama and the amounts involved need to be put in perspective."

Yes. Perspective is what we are talking about. Republicans and Democrats are not different.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 8, 2011 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I like how you try to argue that there's such a significant difference between a corporation giving the convention money to buy signs and balloons and the corporation buying the signs and balloons and "donating" them to the convention. To me, that sounds like a distinction without much of a difference. To claim that this purely symbolic proclamation has some profound significance is totally laughable.

Posted by: TobyTucker1 | February 9, 2011 12:17 AM | Report abuse

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