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Who’s Paying for the Conventions?

Posted on Jul 23, 2008

By Amy Goodman

  The election season is heating up, with back-to-back conventions approaching—the Democrats in Denver followed by the Republicans in St. Paul, Minn. The conventions have become elaborate, expensive marketing events, where the party’s “presumptive” nominee has a coronation with much fanfare, confetti and wall-to-wall media coverage. What people don’t know is the extent to which major corporations fund the conventions, pouring tens of millions of dollars into a little-known loophole in the campaign-finance system.

  Stephen Weissman of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute explains the unconventional funding:

  “It’s totally prohibited to give unlimited contributions to political parties. It’s totally prohibited for a corporation or a union to just go right into its treasury and give money to political parties. Yet, under an exemption that was created by the Federal Election Commission, which essentially is made up of representatives of the two major parties, all of this money can be given if it’s given through a host committee under the pretense that it’s merely to promote the convention city.”

  According to CFI’s new report, “Analysis of Convention Donors,” since the last presidential election, the corporations funding the conventions have spent more than $1.1 billion lobbying the federal government. Add to it the millions they pour into the conventions. Says Weissman: “In return for this money, the parties, through the host committees, offer access to top politicians, to the president, the future president, vice president, cabinet officials, senators, congressmen. They promise these companies who are giving that they will be able to not only get close to these people by hosting receptions, by access to VIP areas, but they’ll actually have meetings with them.”

  Disclosure of what corporations are giving is not required until 60 days after each convention, which is essentially Election Day, so there is no time to challenge a candidate on particular corporate donors. Weissman reports that most of the corporations that are giving to the convention “host committees” also have serious business before the federal government. Take AT&T, for example. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com recently pointed out that the Democratic conventioneers and registered media in attendance will receive a tote bag prominently emblazoned with the AT&T logo. It’s a perfect metaphor for a much larger gift, the one Democrats and Republicans just gave AT&T and other telecoms: retroactive immunity for spying on U.S. citizens. While Sens. Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd fought the bill, Sen. Barack Obama, until recently a staunch opponent of telecom immunity, reversed his position and supported it, reneging on a pledge to filibuster. Perfect timing.

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  The conventions are also training grounds for the next generation of elected officials. Many state legislators attend the conventions as delegates, where they marinate in the ways of big-money politics. From the corporate parties to the hospitality suites, they learn that there is nothing to be gained by challenging the status quo.

  Obama has sworn off special-interest and lobbying money for his campaign, and he made historic strides in using the Internet to marshal millions of small donors and amass a campaign war chest with $72 million in cash on hand at the end of June. Yet the Denver convention is looking more and more like business as usual. Weissman writes in his report, “Lavish conventions with million-dollar podiums, fancy skyboxes and Broadway production teams are not necessary to the democratic process.”

  What is necessary, Weissman says, is stripping soft money out of the convention process: “Congress should pass a law that says no more soft money for these conventions, no corporate treasury, union treasury, no unlimited individual money. Instead, the parties—let’s discard this host-committee fiction—can go out there and ask people to help the convention, but with the same limits where they’re asking people to help them normally.”

  “Deep Throat” is said to have told Bob Woodward during Watergate to “follow the money.” It looks as if this summer you need only go to the Democratic and Republican national conventions. It’s time to close this loophole.
 
  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America.

  © 2008 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate



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By Kurt WA, July 30, 2008 at 9:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Follow the money of candidates, agreed.

Claiming the moral high ground has a degree of merit.  I say a degree of merit and it also has some serious pitfalls. In psycho babble we could write about ego and more ego things, you know.

Ralph Nader, an unreasonable man has chosen a course in politics that is a study.
I respect Ralph Nader to a point. He did however find at least half of his money from Republican donors in his bid for President in 2000?

Who am I kidding, I aint gonna convince a Nader supporter that he or she should vote for Obama.

Yes, follow the money and consider the bigger picture, too.
http://www.opensecrets.org

Kurtwa

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By 4Justice, July 30, 2008 at 8:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is misleading as well:

“Among the best is The Center for Responsive Politics who through their Open Secrets Website have done the research to unmask the corporate contributors hidden by Bundling. There list of Top 20 Contributors for Obama and McCain can be found on their website. For Obama go to: http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cycle=20 08&cid=N00009638 For McCain go to : http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?id=N0000 6424&cycle2=2008&goButt2;.x=6&goButt2;.y=10 “.

....because because because when you, as an individual, contribute personal funds over $250, you are required to put your employer’s name on the form. Just because I work for Such-n-Such, Inc., does NOT mean that that particular corporation/organization put me up to it. I am a Nader supporter too, but c’mon, you have to play fair.

On the other hand, I do not doubt for a second that big money has not found more than one loophole to exert influence. That is a big part of why I support Nader and his fight against corporate personhood.

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By SDC, July 25, 2008 at 11:34 am Link to this comment

Amy spoke of Mr. Obama’s as having “...sworn off special-interest and lobbying money for his campaign…”  What’s interesting to me is that I continue to hear this from his campaign and the main stream press.  However, Steve Henn, a reporter for the program Marketplace on American Public Media, just did a 5 part series on how a lot of politicians, including Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, have created what are called “leadership political action committees.”  According to the report these PACs “are a carbon copy of corporate and union PACs” whose primary purpose “is to raise money and share it with other party members facing tough election fights.”  However, according to Steve Henn, “the reality is that politicians use this money for all sorts of things, not just to contribute to others’ campaigns.”  Things such as luxury hotels, golf outings, travel expenses, etc.  Steve Henn reports that Mr. Obama’s PAC is called the “HopeFund” and it has “accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from Washington lobbyists and special interests.”  This goes for Mr. McCain as well.  None of this is illegal.  It’s just another example of a loop hole in the system being exploited by typical politicians.  So while it sounds nice in a soundbite for Mr. Obama to say that he has raised all of his money from the grass roots movement and that his hands are clean from being beholden to lobbyists and special interests, don’t be fooled, it is a flat out lie.  He is a typical Washington politician and is no different from the other presidential candidate.  In fact, he is just a tamer version of a Bush lackey.  He will be under the influence of those who fund his campaign - Corporate America.  Amy’s right.  Follow the money!

Link below to Steve Henn’s reports:
http://marketplace.publicradio.org/projects/project_display.php?proj_identifier=2008/07/18/pacmen

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By cann4ing, July 24, 2008 at 9:02 pm Link to this comment

Californians 4 Nader—I think you missed Amy’s core point.  You are talking about the corporate donors whose bundled funds are being given directly to the Obama and McCain campaigns.  Amy is talking about the funding of the RNC & DNC.

But thanks for the link.  Interesting that four of the top five Obama donors are in finance.

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By Californians 4 Nader, July 24, 2008 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amy Goodman writes: “Disclosure of what corporations are giving is not required until 60 days after each convention, which is essentially Election Day, so there is no time to challenge a candidate on particular corporate donors.”

This is a very misleading statement ! While exact numbers are indeed hard to come by there are a number of groups doing excellent work on the subject. Among the best is The Center for Responsive Politics who through their Open Secrets Website have done the research to unmask the corporate contributors hidden by Bundling. There list of Top 20 Contributors for Obama and McCain can be found on their website.

For Obama go to: http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00009638

For McCain go to : http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?id=N00006424&cycle2=2008&goButt2;.x=6&goButt2;.y=10

Yes that’s right Obama has out raised McCain over 2 to 1 from the big business interest in this country.

So Amy……Stop leading people deeper into the fog !

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By rowman, July 23, 2008 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment

Hmmm. Bob, that is not his website.

The author of this blog creatively removed the http://www.salon.com/.

Its a cheap attempt to smear him. You must work for the dem convention…

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By cann4ing, July 23, 2008 at 3:23 pm Link to this comment

Just the latest in the scandal that is money and politics.

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By Bob, July 23, 2008 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Take a look at the following link. It appears that Mr. Greenwald should look at his own website before screaming about corporatocracy.

http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield/i-agree-with-glenn

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By webbedouin, July 23, 2008 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment

Way to go Amy!!!

Can hardly wait to see all the product placement plackards around the conventions.

VERIZON

AT&T;COMCAST

and so on & so forth

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