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Tag Archive: Nancy Watzman

Big Money Still Rules

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Catherine Holahan, writing at BusinessWeek, published a story last week on how the various presidential candidates are having tremendous success at attracting contributions from small donors, those who make gifts of less than $200. The campaigns are tapping blogs, e-mails, social networks, YouTube videos, and their own Web sites to reach into the hearts and pockets of new contributors. This year's campaigns are receiving more small donations than the campaigns in previous elections, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.

However, this year's candidates are also receiving more large money donations than ever before. And apparently the ratio of large donors to those who give $200 or less has remained relatively the same as in prior elections. So you have to wonder about the 'new' conventional wisdom that large donors means less to the candidates this year as a result of the influe of small money, and that some how the campaign finance system that allows the big donors to get their hooks into the candidates is less awful than its ever been because of the influx of small money.

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Big Money Still Counts

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My long time colleague and friend Nancy Watzman at Public Campaign writes over at the Huffington Post that despite all the talk about netroots and a democratization of fund raising via the Internet that when it comes to campaign finance for the presidential candidates big donors still significantly dominate. In the last presidential election, it was the early money -- raised from people giving a $1,000 or more that established the front runners.

Nancy quotes a Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) study that found in the first six months of 2007, the candidates received nearly three-quarters of their funds in amounts of $1,000 or more. For Giuliani, Romney and Clinton, the figure exceeds 80 percent. When it comes to small contributions ($200 or less), Obama is raised $16.4 million, more than the rest of the Democratic field combined, as well as the entire Republican field combined. As impressive as that is, he still raised three-fifths of his funds in amounts of $1,000 or more. Overall, in the second quarter of fund raising, there was an increase of 84 percent in small contributions over first quarter totals, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).But still the small money is dwarfed by the big donors.

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Muck Doesn’t Scare Moms

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Over the years of my own mucking around in the issue of political influence I've tried a lot of ways of connecting the issue to various constituencies that I thought should have a natural interest in the undue influence of political contributors on their lawmakers. And that strategy has gained lots of adherents to the notion that big money (campaign contributions, lobbying expenditures, etc.) skews national priorities and policies. Environmentalists certainly believe it. So too advocates for less oil dependent energy policies and a host of other issues where big money is lined up against the community interest.  

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