Friday, September 11, 2009

Democrats Awash in Out-of-State Campaign Contributions

The symbiotic relationship between politics and money is well known; it almost seems that we as Americans are so dependent upon our television sets for information about the world, that simply airing more commercials than your political opponent is a sure fire prescription for victory. With campaign contribution limits in place though, this relationship initially sounds reasonable enough, largely because one might assume that there is a correlation between a candidate's support in his or her district, and the amount of money that he or she is able to raise from the district. The alarming truth however, is that some candidates hardly raise any money at all from their home district. Furthermore, it is Democrats who dominate the list of Representatives who have received the least amount of campaign funding from donors in their own state. In fact, on a list prepared by Congressional Quarterly which showed the members of the House with the highest proportion of out-of-state campaign contributions, you must go to the list's ninth position in order to find a Republican. For the 2010 election campaign, there are four Democrats whose out-of-state donations exceed 90% of their total campaign contributions. Below is a list of those four Democrats, the amount of out-of-state money they have raised, and the entities which so graciously donated to these folks. Keep in mind that when a corporation is listed, the headline donation amount is a cumulative number, indicative of many employees "choosing" to contribute to that specific campaign.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) - 98% Out-of-State
Top Donors:
  1. Paloma Partners, $52,800
  2. ActBlue, $20,200
  3. Prudential Connecticut, $4800
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) - 93% Out-of-State
  1. Thornton & Naumes, $16,500
  2. Pepsiamericas Inc $11,200
  3. Lhc Group $8200
Rep. James L Oberstar (D-Minnesota) - 92% Out-of-State
  1. Livingston Group, $7800
  2. Naismith Engineering, $5500
  3. L&G Engineering, $4800
Rep. Howard L Berman (D-California) - 91% Out-of-State
  1. NorPAC, $13,400
  2. Akin, Grump et al, $6900
  3. Vivendi, $6400
Just to provide some perspective, the top Republican on this list is Rep.Don Young (R-Alaska), who logged 79% of his campaign contributions from out of state individuals; that number is still high, but at least it's not in the 90's.

My primary issue with this sort of data is that it suggests that the residents of a particular Congressional district have been subordinated - from an influence perspective - by out of state donors. When an individual is elected to Congress with the help of non-resident contributions, he or she will inevitably spend an undue amount of time answering to the interests of those donors. The devil's advocate would, at this point, assert that since a district's residents are the only individuals eligible to vote for their particular representative, they can easily vote a non-cooperative Rep out of office. Unfortunately, these sort of "power of the vote" arguments fail to acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of voters have absolutely zero influence over which men or women appear on the ballot. Candidates do not simply spontaneously appear on the ballot as a result of the citizens collective wishes; it takes money to even get on the ballot, and there is nothing preventing out-of-state money from asserting substantial control over a district. With that said, I think it would be completely reasonable to suggest amending campaign finance law, so that candidates may only receive donations from the residents of their particular district.

There is currently a picture perfect example of how out-of-state money can distort a Congressional race; it's so perfect in fact that prior to it's occurrence, I would only have considered describing the situation in hyperbolic fashion. Anyways, we all know that Joe Wilson had an outburst during the President's health care speech, screaming "you lie!" in the middle of it. Rep. Wilson is entitled to his opinion, although I don't necessarily agree with the way in which he chose to express himself, but that's beyond the scope of this article. As a result of Rep. Wilson's - in the grand scheme of things irrelevant - outburst, Democrats have launched a nationwide fund raising campaign, the proceeds from which will be used to fund the election campaign of Rob Miller - the Democrat who will be challenging Mr. Wilson in 2010. Since Wednesday, over $700,000 has been raised for Rob Miller by various Democratic groups, including ActBlue.

Recognize ActBlue? That's because they are listed as Rep. Pingree's 2nd largest contributor (above) raising over $20,000 for the Congresswoman from Maine. Organizations such as ActBlue have become too powerful, and are distorting elections which should be decided by the residents of that district, not out-of-state activists. Sphere: Related Content

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