People For the American Way

Wealthy Donors Aren’t Like You and Me

The Washington Post has an article today with a thoroughly unsurprising headline: Wealthy political donors seize on new latitude to give to unlimited candidates. The short version: Since the Roberts Court's 5-4 McCutcheon decision striking down longstanding aggregate campaign contribution caps, wealthy contributors have ramped up their direct contributions – and personal access – to political candidates.

[Andrew] Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and "even Alaska," he said.

Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly.

"You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues," said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. "They know that I'm a big supporter."

If you think that unfairly distorts our democracy away from the interests of regular folks, one major Republican donor explains why you're wrong:

But many wealthy donors rejected the notion that the playing field is tilted in their favor.

"Baloney," said Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota media mogul who largely backs Republicans and conservatives. "The average person can get their friends together and raise small donations that amount to big donations."

And what "average person" might that be?

It would take an awful lot of "average people" to get anywhere near the levels of political giving that we are seeing this election cycle. Even if someone bundled enough small-dollar donations from ordinary people to make a large contribution, it would still pale in comparison to the enormous sums that America's wealthiest are showering throughout the country on their chosen candidates and party organizations. And how many of those small-dollar donors would get personal visits from party leaders?

Most Americans don't want to – and cannot afford to – get into a spending contest with plutocrats to purchase access to and influence over our elected officials. It's an arms race that we as ordinary Americans would lose, but more importantly, that isn't what democracy is about.

Next Monday, senators will have a chance to repair the significant damage to our democracy that Roberts Court rulings like McCutcheon and Citizens United have done by voting to advance the Democracy For All constitutional amendment. We know they've heard from the plutocrats. But have they heard from you yet?


Citizens United v. FEC, Democracy For All Amendment, McCutcheon v. FEC, Ted Cruz