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You would be amazed at the complex rivers of cash [in Washington, DC], and where they flow. – Page 56
After being distracted over the holidays and the entire month of January, the snow and ice on the roads here in TX these last couple of days have allowed me some semi-down time to catch up on my notes from a couple of Peter Schweizer books (see Standard Disclaimer at the end of this post). I am currently working my way through those for Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Your Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets (2013), and I have just typed out several passages on leadership PACs that have (re-)raised a serious question in my mind. But first, some notes from the book…
In order to set the stage and calibrate your mind to that long ago era of 2012, I’ll start with this:
It is mindboggling to look at all the tributaries of cash that flow underground and aboveground in Washington. Consider the 2012 elections and Speaker of the House John Boehner’s fund raising machine. Boehner has a personal campaign committee, a leadership PAC, and a so-called joint fund-raising committee. He can tap wealthy donors for all three committees, and indeed, he often does. Boehner’s campaign committees transferred $22.4 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee for the 2012 election, according to FEC records. Over $11 million of that came from his campaign committee, Friends of John Boehner, and more than $10 million came from his joint fund-raising committee. Meanwhile, his leadership PAC, the Freedom Project, together with his campaign account, gave a total of $2.4 million directly to 2021 congressional candidates.
With a so-called leadership PAC, Boehner can transfer money to his colleagues’ campaign committees ($10,000 a year per colleague) and donate another $10,000 to the same colleagues’ own PACs. He can also transfer unlimited amounts of money to the National Republican Committee, which can then turn around and spend unlimited funds supporting those candidates’ reelection bids. …it’s perfectly legal in Washington. … – Pages 68-69
Given the appropriate inflationary factors for those 2012 dollars and another decade of perfecting the corruption in our beltway, it is hard to imagine the magnitudes that are flowing under the Pelosi machine today. But I digress.
Now, I want to focus a bit more on “leadership PACs”:
Leadership PACs are ostensibly about raising money to help political colleagues hold and win seats. But the FEC has few restrictions on how these monies can be used and does not restrict the “personal use” of such funds. “Congress has never extended the personal-use restrictions to leadership PACs,” says former FEC chairman Michael Toner. “The FEC has looked at this over the years and has determined they don’t have the statutory ability to address this. It will take an act of Congress.” – Page 103
What leadership PACs provide is essentially a second personal bank account, or a second pocket from which politicians can pull money. – Page 104
Lots of money, virtually unregulated, and the fox is guarding the henhouse. What could go wrong? (Answer: Nothing, of course, this is working exactly how it was set up to run. Kinda puts the joke to the “get the money out of politics” you were promised with the McCain-Feingold-Bush legislation. The uni-Party is still laughing at you on that one.)
How about a couple of 2012 examples of how things work in practice…just for additional reference? First, a Democrat:
During the 2012 election cycle, … [Congressman John Conyers] raised $99,300, which is a small total by leadership PAC standards. (In 2010 he did much better, raking in more than $200,000.) But of the nearly $100,000 he raised, Conyers gave only $1,430 to other candidates, which is the stated purpose of his PAC. Instead, he spent more than six times that amount on the National Football League ($6,595) and ESPN ($6,900) to attend awards events. Conyers spent even more on limousine services for himself ($1,500) than he did on candidates. … The congressman also dropped serious money at the Rock Bottom Brewery ($1,300). Conyers is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. The vast majority of the money he raised came from corporate PACs and lobbyists. – Pages 105-106
And then, from the other side of the uni-Party, a Republican:
… After the November 20212 election, [Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri] retreated to the beautiful sanctuary at Kiawah Island on Johns Island, South Carolina. The [leadership PAC Rely on Your Beliefs Fund he leads] dropped $11,334 there on November 14 for “PAC LODGING & EVENT CATERING.” Two months earlier, the PAC dropped $12,481 for “PAC LODGING & FACILITIES FEE.” On December 7, 2012, there was another $1,584 expense for “LODGING” at the resort, and on December 13, 2012 the PAC spent $11,684 on yet another event. In all, the PAC spent over $65,000 at this location during the 2012 election cycle. Indeed, Blunt spent more at the Kiawah resort through his leadership PAC than he transferred from the PAC to the National Republican Senatorial Committee to elect other Republicans. And while he gave other Senate candidates over $240,000, that was a small fraction of the $1.1 million he raised. Meanwhile, his political aide Keri Anne Hays received $296,000 in salary and benefits from the leadership PAC during the 2012 election cycle, more than all the Republican candidates received. – Page 106
What a country, indeed. Schweizer summarizes the grotesque system – in all its glory – about as well as one could with these:
Politics in Washington is a lot like professional wrestling. What seems like vicious combat to the uninitiated is actually choreographed acting. … But in fact, they are partners in a commercial enterprise to entertain and to extract money from an audience. No matter who wins the match, everyone gets paid. – Pages 8-9
Washington may not be working for citizen, but it’s working quite well for the members of the Permanent Political Class who profit handsomely. – Pages 7-8
All of that now leads to the real point of this post. Second only to “Given all that was known and provided to them in time to prepare appropriately, why didn’t Nancy and Mitch properly protect the Capitol on January 6, 2021?”, the following should be top of the list to be asked of Republican Leadership Management at every opportunity:
QUESTION: How much money flowed through the multitude of well-established and well worn “tributaries” of modern American campaign finance from Mitch McConnell’s various committees (and more specifically, his leadership PAC) to the Republican senatorial candidates for the run-off elections in Georgia in 2020? (I do ask this in all seriousness because I have never seen nor heard a single peep about it in any reporting on the subject.)
FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: How much money flowed through the multitude of well-established and well worn “tributaries” of modern American campaign finance from Mitch McConnell’s various committees (and more specifically, his leadership PAC) to the Thad Cochran campaign during the Mississippi Republican senate primary run-off in 2014? (Here I resist my old rant about how far the establishment went to undercut the Republican voters of Mississippi in support of – if I recall correctly – a clearly diminished carcass of a Senator who put his wife into storage so he could stay in Washington while “renting a basement apartment” from his girlfriend who also was on his staff and travelled around with him of official business…presumably all at our expense. Like I said, I will resist going into that.)
Obviously, I could be wrong. But I would bet the comparison between the answers to those two questions would be more than a bit enlightening.
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I often throw around the “completely corrupt” theme somewhat flippantly when talking about our beltway betters and the charade they perform for us while enriching themselves. Unfortunately, as definitive as that simple phrase may be, it really does understate just how much the operations of this Potemkin constitutional republic have been distorted and bastardized into one hell of a joke on us, We the People.
Note that many of the quotes used in this post are from the 2013 book referenced above so my use of it today to further my agenda may be of somewhat dated applicability. If there has been a major government reform movement since then that I have missed, please accept my apologies and disregard this entire post.Published in