Anyone who doesn't have money understands exactly why billionaires buy politicians. Those of us without it understand that politicians represent those with the loudest voices, and when it comes to Republicans in particular, voices are measured in dollars and cents.
Today's Washington Post report on the influence money has on politicians in the post-McCutcheon world is ironic and chilling all at once.
Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees.
So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said.
Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly.
“You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”
Sabin and other wealthy political contributors have more access than ever to candidates since the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. More than 300 donors have seized the opportunity, writing checks at such a furious pace that they have exceeded the old limit of $123,200 for this election cycle, according to campaign finance data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization.
They give you access to meet them and talk about your issues.
Or put another way, they do your bidding because: a) They have heard your command; and b) You bought their cooperation.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may be the most obvious example of this. The latest documents released from the John Doe investigation show exactly how much access he provided and gave to national donors.
He was instructed by his fundraising consultant, Kate Doner, to "grab" billionaire Paul Singer at a meeting at Sea Island in Georgia. Paul Singer donated $250,000 to him after that meeting. Other big money donors Walker met with include Michael Sullivan of SAC Capital Advisers, who donated $1 million after a meeting with Walker. Walker met with Donald Trump on March 30, 2012, and Trump donated $15,000 on April 3, 2012. Home Depot founder Ken Langone had a phone conversation with Scott Walker on March 30, 2012, the same day he wrote a $15,000 check to Wisconsin Club for Growth, the conduit for campaign contributions. There are more. Many more.
Here's the thing. Because of a weird glitch in Wisconsin campaign finance, Scott Walker was allowed to accept unlimited donations for his recall campaign, provided they were disclosed. Yet all of the donors I listed above and more made donations to Wisconsin Club For Growth, a 501c4 organization, for the sole purpose of gaining access to Walker and avoiding disclosure to the public.
The most blatant example of Pay For Access And Results by corporate and billionaire interests was Walker's deal with Gogebic Taconite LLC, a Wisconsin mining company. The company donated $700,000 to Walker, and sought access to a public forest for mining purposes.
Scott Walker, having heard the company's position and appeal, supported legislation to expedite the permit approval for the company. And that's not all. Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth also supported legislation making that an exclusive deal by closing access to the forest.
As icing on the cake, let's not forget that the John Doe investigation was shut down by a judge who pals around with the Kochs and their cohorts at annual meetings.
Pity the billionaires
But back to our billionaires and their giddy joy over their ability to give unlimited funds to the politicians of their choice, which seem to be the state legislatures this cycle. We have this cute quote from Stanley Hubbard, king of right wing radio and cable outlets, about how the riff-raff can do it too!
“Baloney,” said Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota media mogul who largely backs Republicans and conservatives. “The average person can get their friends together and raise small donations that amount to big donations.”
Yes, all those minimum wage workers can scoop up their change and put it in a big bucket or maybe give up one of the two meals they get to eat each day in order to buy access to their politician too!
But you should feel sorry for those billionaires, because their damn phone never stops ringing.
Hubbard, who has given more than $191,000 directly to candidates and party committees this election cycle, said that since the limit on total donations was lifted, he fields incessant political solicitations.
“My phone rings, rings, rings,” he said. “It’s made me poorer, I’ll tell you that, but it’s made it possible for me do a better job as a citizen. It used to be kind of nice to say, ‘I’m maxed out,’ but I really believe that people running for office need to have support.”
Awwwww. But hey, Stanley old boy. You have access. Just tell them to fix that.
Blame the unions
Call the waaahmbulance for this last part. You see, the billionaires just wanted what the working stiffs had all along!
“What happened before was you couldn’t give the max to a lot of good friends,” said John Catsimatidis, a New York supermarket mogul and one-time Republican mayoral candidate. “Now you have no excuse.”
He praised the court’s decision, saying that labor unions already had the ability to spend unlimited sums on behalf of candidates. “People want to put a restriction on people who do well in our country,” Catsimatidis said.
Of course he forgot the part where unions were required to disclose all political contributions they made. No fancy 501c4s for them.
All for a noble cause
And if you believe this, I've got some swampland in a red state to sell you.
Sabin said he has used his expanded access to politicians to press Republicans to be more environmentally conscious.
“My issues are not selfish issues,” he said. “I want to leave my kids and grandkids a healthy planet.”
Well, then. That makes it totally all right. A quick Google search shows that Sabin has funded some legal fellowships at Columbia in environmental law.
On the spectrum of billionaire interests, Sabin's fall at least somewhat in the same area as ordinary people's. But he is one of hundreds of those buying access, and most of the Money Boys getting access aren't nearly as sanguine about the environment or education.
Start saving your pennies, kids. Maybe by 2050 we can have enough put together for an ad or two.