On Tuesday just as the campaigns moved into the general election phase, the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) released an analysis of the fundraising being conducted by the Democrats and Republicans for their presidential conventions in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul. CFI estimates that corporate funds will pay for 80 percent of the $112 million combined price tag of the two conventions. How is that possible?!
CFI found that both parties are using local “host committees” to raise unlimited corporate contributions to pay for the conventions and the FEC and IRS decided that it’s OK for “host committees” to spearhead the fundraising, This created a huge loophole allowing corporate money to flow to the parties.
Federal regulators perceive the local host committees as nonpartisan charities whose interest were promoting the city and state, not selling access. A contribution to these organizations, they (read “naively”) believed, would not “present an issue of potential political corruption or appearance of corruption,” according to their thinking. In practice, the state and local political parties are extensively tied to the host committees. Documents obtained by CFI show that both parties’ host committees approached the corporations promising extensive access to lawmakers and party leaders as a result of large contributions.
And most interesting, this report is not based on FEC data, but on Freedom of Information requests to Governors and Mayors in Colorado and Minnesota.
Jim Drinkard, writing today on Businessweek.com, recalls how five years ago then FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith made a prediction: corporate sponsorship of political conventions would eventually be as common as it is for football bowl games. “I look forward to the day, by 2008, when Americans can turn on their TVs and watch the Nokia Democratic Convention, or the AT&T Republican National Convention,” Smith joked.
“That day has pretty much arrived,” Drinkard writes. Oh, Dinkard reports another kick in the pants. All contributions to the host committees are tax deductible.