Posted by Brad @ 4:16 pm on April 26th 2008

Party Men

Or: “Obama to DNC: ‘I Have Too Much Money. Here, Have Some’.”

Or: “Obama to Merge with DNC, Creating Human-Party Cyborg to Face Off Against Mighty Morphin Power McCain”

Or: “You can now give $70,000 to McCain and $28,500 to Obama, but if you wish to donate to Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, sorry, the limit’s $2300, because we can’t have money influencing elections.”

I reported about the strange McCain-RNC hybrid that’s going on in the Republican party, whereby McCain can get around contribution limits by merging fundraising with the RNC, and can (hopefully) cut costs by folding some of his campaign operations into them.

Now, Obama appears to be following his lead.

After a series of discussions, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee have decided to file papers with the Federal Election Commission establishing a “joint fundraising agreement.” Under the law, such a committee can accept up to $28,500 from individuals, most of which would go to the DNC.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has already formed such an alliance with the Republican National Committee. Their group — called Victory — was created in March after McCain clinched the GOP nomination and is headed by McCain adviser Carly Fiorina.

Sources say the DNC has also held talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign about forming a separate vehicle with her, but that no deal has been struck.

I still find this to be a pretty seedy go-around for campaign finance laws. It’s not that I give much a toss for campaign finance laws, but it still seems to me pretty undeniable that this violates the spirit of them.

Of course, Obama doesn’t quite have the same level of responsibility on this as McCain, who has been a particularly visible champion of the notion of campaign finance and most of its particulars. On campaign finance, I think it’s pretty fair to hold McCain to a higher standard. The hypocrisy is pretty astounding.

The other difference is the flow appears reversed between the two. McCain/RNC is as much about McCain latching on to the RNC as a lifeline as anything. Obama/DNC appears to be the opposite—the DNC is the only Democratic committee to not be raking in the dough, and is well behind its Republican counterpart on fundraising. Both are making the arrangement to be able to raise more money (i.e. the de facto legalization of larger individual contributions), but McCain hopes to raise more money by siphoning off from contributions to his party, whereas the DNC hopes to raise more money by siphoning off from contributions to Obama. Obama appears to not be interested in folding operations under the DNC either, has McCain is in the process of doing now. So, he’s probably on the better side of that power-arrangement than McCain is.

Regardless, it annoys me greatly that this is a trick only available to candidates who have the D.C. establishment backing. In practice, in subsequent elections, it basically means that candidates can raise individual contributions of any amount, so long as they get their party committee’s blessing and have an arrangement to share the money with them. I find that to be problematic in no small ways. It strikes me as being something close to campaign finance racketeering. We can all be rest assured that monied speech cannot influence challengers, who have to lumber under the 2300 limit (unless they’re independently wealthy), but that for Party Men, 20k a donation, 70k, no problem. Plop it down to your heart’s content. They are, after all, sanctioned.

There is of course a lesson here. Whenever you limit freedom in the name of “fairness”, it always seems to end up that the powerful interests get their way regardless, and the only people who suffer are the challengers, for whom the laws both limit freedom and fairness.

Hooray for campaign finance reform!


  1. The answer is obvious with regard to Paul or Kucinich: form the Ron Paul National Committee.

    That way you can have your own party, run for the presidency in the fall and rake in big ticket donations. You just need to form a shill organization to act as a political party to funnel large sums of money into in and out of, effectively laundering it to skirt campaign finance laws.

    Yay for campaign finance reform!

    Comment by Cameron — 4/26/2008 @ 10:48 pm

  2. Presumably if you form your own party, you can’t run in the other party’s primary.

    Comment by Brad — 4/26/2008 @ 11:13 pm

  3. Yeah, but all of this fundraising discussion is concerning the general election. My point is that Paul or Kucinich could develop a similar tactic were they running in the general election.

    Comment by Cameron — 4/27/2008 @ 1:27 am

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