When it comes to campaign finance, it’s difficult to find the “good guys.” The Republicans are relying heavily on donations from political action committees, but the Democrats are simultaneously criticizing donations from special interests while still accepting their money.
These special interests can range from seemingly innocuous policy groups to huge corporations. In any case, their large donations complicate the ability of politicians, once elected, to act independently and in the best interests of their constituents. The Democrats have publicly acknowledged this potential, but the vast majority of them are still accepting donations from such groups despite these concerns.
Based on Democrats’ words, one would assume they are running noble campaigns that completely eschew special interest donations, unlike the Republicans. Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Obama’s reelection campaign, told Politico:
“With special interests now able to raise unlimited funds in their effort to defeat the president — with some estimates saying they’ll raise $500 million — there’s no doubt that we’re building a robust fundraising operation in order to establish the largest grassroots infrastructure possible.”
But according to an Associated Press analysis of campaign fundraising, the Democrats aren’t exactly shying away from special interest dollars either. The study found that Democratic candidates seeking to regain control of the House have already received $15 million from political action committees this year — with more than $1 million going toward the re-election committees of Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Democratic leaders gloss over all that when they pressure the GOP presidential candidates to disclose their top donors, and even go so far as to trumpet the fact that Obama’s campaign and the DNC don’t take money from registered federal lobbyists and political action committees.
“The refusal to accept donations from federal lobbyists and PACs is critical to limiting the influence of special interests in the political process,” Wasserman Schultz said in a recent conference call with reporters. “Unfortunately, every single Republican candidate for president today happily accepts donations from lobbyists and PACs.”
But so do Democratic congressional candidates. If Wasserman Schultz is admitting that donations from these groups affect the political process, then why is she still accepting these donations?
Some might argue that the Democrats are only accepting money from special interests because they know the Republicans are, and they have to set aside their values if they want to stand a chance in the elections. Still, it seems hypocritical for leading Democrats to criticize the role of special interests and political action committees while benefiting from that system at the same time.
In this case, the rhetoric doesn’t match the numbers.