It’s not just the questions about the Federal Elections Commission investigation and where the money came from. It’s actually worse than that. It’s what happened afterward – because like so much else in government these days, it involves political fundraising.
At the end of last year, Rep. Frank Guinta’s campaign reported less than $19,000 cash-on-hand.
Yet the FEC enforcement agreement signed by Guinta’s lawyer last month obligated the campaign to pay a $15,000 administrative fine and repay $355,000 in loans dating back to 2010. (Hat-tip to the Union Leader for posting the agreement online, where we can all read it.)
Like most Congressmen, Rep. Guinta is a practiced fundraiser. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Guinta raised about $4.5 million dollars during his last three campaigns.
And just in the first quarter of this year – presumably while his lawyer was negotiating the FEC settlement – Guinta’s campaign raised more than $300,000.
Koch Industries PAC gave $5,000. The Chicago Board Options Exchange PAC gave $5,000. Independent Insurance Agents PAC gave $5,000. New York Life Insurance PAC gave $5,000. National Beer Wholesalers PAC gave $5,000. The Boeing Company PAC gave $1,000. The Turkish Coalition PAC gave $1,000.
Jeb Bush’s brand-new “Right to Rise” SuperPAC gave $5,200 — before the PAC was even two months old.
The Leadership PAC affiliated with House Speaker John Boehner gave $5,000, and Boehner’s campaign committee gave another $4,000. The Leadership PAC of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave $5,000; his campaign gave another $4,000. Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Leadership PAC gave $5,000. The Leadership PAC of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise gave $5,000. The Leadership PAC of Oregon Rep. Greg Walden gave $5,000. The Leadership PAC of Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling gave $5,000. Ribble for Congress gave $1,000. Latta for Congress gave $1,000. Jeff Miller for Congress gave $1,000. Andy Harris for Congress gave $1,000. Rick Allen for Congress gave $1,000. Friends of Sam Johnson gave $1,000. Rep. John Kline’s Leadership PAC gave $1,000. Rep. Steve Stivers’ Leadership PAC gave $1,000. The Leadership PAC of Rep. John Shimkus gave $1,000.
And the list goes on, for almost 75 pages.
Sort of like “Go Fund Me” – except that the money is coming from special interests and Guinta’s fellow congressmen, who also have an interest in how he votes.
Given that list of donors, would Rep. Guinta consider fighting House Leadership over the latest raid on Medicare? Or is he going to vote exactly how the Speaker wants him to?
What does Jeb Bush expect, in return for the SuperPAC contribution?
What does Koch Industries expect? The Chicago options traders? Boeing? The Turkish Coalition?
And what can Guinta’s constituents expect, after the campaign solicited almost enough money to pay the cost of the FEC agreement?
How many of these donors knew that the FEC agreement was coming?
Solicit more campaign contributions, to meet the conditions of a campaign finance enforcement agreement. It’s so ironic, it should be funny – except, it’s not. It’s totally screwed up.
When politicians go begging to big money donors, everybody else loses.
That’s why two-thirds of New Hampshire voters want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
It’s why hundreds of people have been walking across the state with the New Hampshire Rebellion, drawing attention to the need for campaign finance reform.
It’s why tens of thousands of people across the country are legally stamping US currency with messages like “Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.” Every stamped dollar bill is seen by about 875 people. Get a stamp at StampStampede.org. Stamp four bills each day for a year, and you’ll help convince a million people that it is possible to take our government back – if enough of us work together to do that.
It’s why small businesses are hosting Stamp Stampede stamping stations – more than 100 of them across New Hampshire – so their customers can stamp money and learn more about money in politics.
It’s why grandmothers and middle school students and people from every political persuasion are working together to reclaim our government from Big Money campaign donors.
Because when you read about a FEC enforcement action, you shouldn’t have to wonder whose money will be used to pay the fine, and what they’re going to expect in return.
And you really shouldn’t have to worry whether all the fundraising that happened, just before the agreement was signed, is going to do more damage to our democracy than the original violation.