Money Money Money…

When Howard Dean first demonstrated an ability to fundraise over the Internet, I was thrilled. I saw all those small donations displacing the influence of the “fat cats” upon whom political figures had long depended. As time has passed–and as I have noted in recent posts–it appeared that my enthusiasm was premature. Successful candidates who had previously granted access to lobbyists and big donors now pander to the ideologically rigid, nuance-free extremes of their parties’ bases.

Back when I ran for Congress, the conventional political wisdom about fundraising saw political contributions not just as a way to pay for expensive television and direct mail efforts, but as an indicator of support. People who could raise respectable amounts–especially if those contributions came in early in the campaign–were seen to be more viable than candidates who struggled to raise money.

As we all know, some things have changed. Television and direct mail are far less important than less-expensive social media communications, for example. Other things haven’t: the importance of name recognition (the reason “celebrity” candidates with little or no government experience have a head start), and the still-potent belief that raising lots of money means the candidate has lots of grass-roots support.

And that brings me to an interesting story from ProPublica, about how Josh Hawley and Marjorie Taylor Green “juiced” their numbers using tactics that gave them the ability to claim grassroots support, and–not so incidentally– made shadowy consultants rich.

Two of the leading Republican firebrands in Congress touted big fundraising hauls as a show of grassroots support for their high-profile stands against accepting the 2020 election results.

But new financial disclosures show that Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., relied on an email marketing vendor that takes as much as 80 cents on the dollar. That means their headline-grabbing numbers were more the product of expensively soliciting hardcore Republicans than an organic groundswell of far-reaching support.

Both Hawley and Greene touted their big totals as evidence of widespread support for their extreme positions. Pro Publica’s reporters begged to differ, pointing out that both had paid unusually high sums to rent a fundraising list from a company called LGM Consulting Group, which charges as much as 80% of the funds generated through its list.

LGM appears to be the consultant of choice for crazy candidates–the company fundraises for Lauren Boebert, among other far-right “stars” and in 2020, the firm’s clients included then-Rep. Doug Collins, a Trump ally who lost the Georgia Senate primary; Madison Cawthorn, the 25-year-old congressman from North Carolina who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally; and Laura Loomer, a far-right internet personality who calls herself a “proud Islamophobe” and lost a run for a Florida congressional seat.

As the report notes, the rise of email fundraising has proved irresistible to several less-than-scrupulous marketing consultants, and has facilitated their ability to profit handsomely.

Hawley’s and Greene’s list rentals show how politicians can pad their fundraising figures — if they’re willing to pay for it. There’s scant evidence that fundraising success represents broad popular support for a politician outside the narrow slice of Americans who make political contributions, and many of the people on the rented mailing lists may not have been constituents of Hawley’s or Greene’s. Still, the money is real, and the perception of fundraising star power is its own kind of success in Washington….

Political professionals have gotten more sophisticated about efficiently converting online outrage into campaign cash. At the same time, candidates who court controversy may increasingly rely on rage-fueled online fundraising as more traditional donors freeze them out. In the aftermath of Jan. 6, Hawley lost the support of some big donors, and major companies such as AT&T and Honeywell pledged to withhold donations from lawmakers who objected to the Electoral College vote.

“The news cycle that emerges out of controversial behavior by a candidate is like a strong gust of wind, and these mechanisms like list-building are the equivalent of sails,” said Eric Wilson, a digital strategist who has advised Sen. Marco Rubio and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “For candidates like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Josh Hawley, who have largely been shunned by traditional corporate donors who are frequently the mainstays for elected officials, especially in off years, they have no choice but to pursue grassroots fundraising. And in order for that to work, they have to continue to make more noise. It is a feedback loop in that regard.”

There doesn’t seem to be an answer to the multiple dilemmas posed by money in politics…..


  1. There is an answer, and it begins with overturning two Supreme Court decisions. The first being the ruling that corporations are the same as people. They are not! The second being the big lie that money is the same as speech. Money talks alright, but those sounds are not protected by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As long as these two rulings stand, the country will continue to struggle mightily against forces that would turn it into an oligarchy or a fascist state. Even with Trump gone, we remain in terrible danger of losing our democracy.

  2. To T Bowers, t is not gone. We need to see that.
    RFDTV a TV station that has farmer commodity markets, and other rural storues, where My Pilliw ads are prominent. Indiana Farm Bureau has not officially withdrawn support of the Indiana congressmen, seditionists all. Everywhere I see farmers that still support trump in denying the legitimacy of the 2020 election. The middle section of the country is deeply red, atill.
    No, we all are not done with the previous admin.

  3. “As the report notes, the rise of email fundraising has proved irresistible to several less-than-scrupulous marketing consultants, and has facilitated their ability to profit handsomely.”

    And as Theresa said, even with Trump gone, “…we remain in danger of losing our democracy.” By threatening to build houses along one of his golf courses, which is against building codes; he has joined the farmers being given tax breaks for not growing crops, he has promised NOT to build houses. He continues to profit handsomely by screwing over us with our own tax codes.

    Just last night I was thinking about President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, which is vital to this country if we are to survive, the amount in the trillions is due to the soaring costs of everything in this country due to corporations being people and money being speech. Also due to our infrastructure being a source of much talk but no action for decades. Being a millionaire is no longer as impressive as once was, now private billionaires impress us; how long before they become trillionaires and billionaires will be met with “ho hum”? But the standard of living for low and middle-income Americans continues to drop nearer to poverty levels just to provide basics. We must rebuild the foundation of this county’s economy, destroyed in part by Trump’s “tax break” (for corporations and wealthy only) and near completion by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

    “There doesn’t seem to be an answer to the multiple dilemmas posed by money in politics…..” which is a different dilemma posed by the necessity of President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill and will remain so as long as the Republican Congress sits mute and idle.

  4. Politicians are there for one of two reasons, to lead the country according to their ideals and receive renumerations for their service. They do it with the help of the media unfortunately because they aren’t nearly as journalistic in nature. They are all trying to produce change and learn nothing about civics and government and certainly know little or nothing about business and the skim margins smsll businesses operate on. We are already seeing huge cash flows going right into the pockets of newly elected officials. Kamala Harris has a book scandal and can’t seem to find the time manage the border and reparations are a slap in the face as immigrants dimply walk across the border and steal jobs from ancestors of slaves that we should be trying to employ. Fat cats certainly dont want union jobs and are willing to use voting tactics pressuring employees yo vote against themselves. It is truly those who have the money that persuade, wait till autonomous vehicles displace drivers. Can you imagine a fuel truck going down the highway driven by a satellite connection and sensors? How will our officials be influenced? Money.

  5. What good is popularity in politics if you cannot accomplish anything for the people who elected you? Have we now fostered in the political celebrity?

    For the so-called political right, independent donations mean nothing. It grants them no independence. They still fall in line with the GOP directives.

    Those on the political left, independent donations allow them to challenge the status quo of the entrenched ruling oligarchy. They don’t have to fall in line with the DNC. These are the people the DNC blocks. The social movements created on the left are absorbed into the DNC and killed off.

    The DNC brought out their black president to snub the BLM’s “Defund the Police” call by calling it a “snappy slogan” and then he went back to Wall Street to make another speech for half a million.

    The DNC is as big a fraud as the GOP. They pretend to be battling each other over racism or working-class exhaustion, but neither party does anything to fix the problem because they both work for the same people who created the problem.

    My question is if the new voting infrastructure bill gets passed and we all get to fund the politicians, will they work for us then, or will that just add to their fortunes while they continue working for the oligarchy that owns everything?

  6. John,
    Kamala Harris doesn’t have a “book scandal”. The scandal is owned by the lying journalist and the paper that promoted a lie. Someone donated her book ( one book!) for the immigrant children. A picture on that book was used as “proof”.

  7. Until there are donor reporting requirements for 501c4s, there will continue to be big donor funds going to even the most despicable candidates, despite the corporations’ protestations to the contrary.

  8. To drive out the Private Money corrupting American politics, an equal amount of Public Money should be awarded every month to Political Parties (which along with all their candidates could use no other money to compete for public office) for each of their registered voters. This is the most democratic way possible to allot public campaign funding. One voter-one share! Each such Party would be tasked to allot its funding among its various (elected) National, State and Local entities. Only the voters should judge how well they have done.

  9. The real point is that none of that money creates any value for anyone but extreme politicians. Voters don’t benefit. Consumers don’t benefit. Entertainment media consumers don’t benefit except by getting their bias confirmed. The government doesn’t benefit. Zero value is created.

    It’s also so easy to end. One law that creates publically funded campaigning with specified events based on the office sought is all that is required. Debates rather than baby-kissing. Information on the quality of the candidate instead of endless blaming of the competition would be the net gain for everyone, but especially public-serving candidates.

    End political advertising.

  10. Pete is correct.

    California, a Democratic Party stronghold, recently introduced a bill to ban corporate contributions but it went nowhere.

    Also, once you run through the scenario of banning unlimited funding and eliminate political ads, you’ll easily discover who else is against democratic elections — the entertainment media industry that relies on those billions every election cycle.

    It’s a machine that feeds on itself and produces little of value for the people who consume it.

  11. My utopian solutions to the continuing problem of campaign finance include public financing of campaigns (no other campaign funds); a shortened campaign season (2 months tops); and some agreement from or obligation of media to provide more than sound bite coverage of candidates AT ALL LEVELS. That would relieve candidates of constant fund-raising obligations. It would greatly improve public confidence in public officials who don’t have to sell their souls to raise campaign cash. It could eliminate a lot of campaign advertising and hopefully improve the quality of information about candidates.

    As I said, it’s utopian, but I can dream can’t I?

  12. So now we have politicians inflating their “grassroots support” by spending money on businesses that make their base appear larger than it is. It reminds me of corporations buying back their stocks to inflate their value.

    Whatever happened to honesty? I have come to believe that marketers are just professional liars.

    Furthermore, if money is free speech then giving voters food and water while they stand in line for a long time,should also be free speech.

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