Cromnibus campaign finance rider splits Republicans

Allah and Ed gave you the blow by blow on the Cromnibus last night, which we were apparently all supposed to oppose. (Though while a 60 or 90 day CR would have left us with a better looking battle in March on the surface, I’m not all that optimistic that the final result would have smelled much better.) The deed is done, though – at least in the House – and it’s worth remembering that things could have gone much further off the rails. The threatened shutdown – though it didn’t happen – was being reluctantly portrayed in the media as the fault of the Democrats, even if it was a far more principled shutdown. Homeland Security and executive amnesty are only funded for a very short time and will be addressed again in the next 30 days or so by a GOP majority in the Senate. Let’s face it… it could have been much, much worse.

One of the big bones of contention on both sides of the aisle, though, was the provision which allowed for much larger contributions to the national party committees. This was apparently something that nearly everyone could hate. The Democrats loudly proclaim that they don’t like so much money in politics. (While taking huge amounts themselves, of course, as Harry Reid demonstrated with great vigor.) The Republicans ostensibly believe that money is speech and speech should be free. But Tea Party supporters found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to argue that this cash/speech was a bit too free when it might be used by the establishment against primary challengers, as is explained at Right Wing News.

The provision would increase the amount of money a single donor could give to national party committees each year from $97,200 to as much as $777,600 by allowing them to set up different funds for certain expenses. The change would be a huge boost for party committees that have faced steep challenges in recent years from well-funded outside groups.

Disgruntled activists fear the committees will unleash the added cash against conservative candidates in primaries, making it even harder for them to unseat establishment-friendly incumbents. Most tea party groups have political action committees for which individual donations are capped at $10,000 per election cycle…

The same conservative activists have long advocated for looser campaign finance laws, but they argue the language of the rider in the 1,600-page bill gives the establishment wing an unfair advantage by tweaking the law specifically for donations to party committees.

Personally, I have no interest in donating to any of these slush funds, and that is precisely what they are. Whether you are being asked to give money to the RNC or the Senate Conservatives Fund, once the check is written you have lost control of your speech. The problem with all of them is that money is fungible. Let’s say that I am a big supporter of Mary Krakatoa and hope she unseats the current senator in her race, but I have big problems with Bob Ixnizle and some of the positions he’s taken. If I tell the head of the RNC or the SCF that I only want my money going to Mary, they’ll quickly assure me that my check for $100 will be earmarked directly for her. But that frees up another C-note which Mary will no longer need and it can be shuffled straight over to Bob.

For my money, you’re better off donating directly to the candidates you support.

But as to the new rider in the Cromnibus, this is a tough argument to make. It’s rather tricky to claim that you oppose limits on speech (spending) while simultaneously saying that you don’t want the caps raised on party committee fundraising. As the linked piece discusses, it’s true that donors to the PACs for such Tea Party friendly groups are capped at $10K, but if they also have a Super PAC there are essentially no limits. The committees have their own work to do which goes beyond simply funneling cash to specific campaign war chests. Saying you don’t want them getting more money just because it may be used against Tea Party challengers is rather hard to pull off without looking at least a tad bit hypocritical.

Of course, this still has to make it through the Senate, which means it has to get past both Liz Warren and Ted Cruz. Given that caveat, the entire discussion may wind up being moot.