A new report from the Campaign Finance Institute has found that while Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Barack Obama are both running campaigns promising “campaign finance reform,” their party conventions are being funded primarily by unlimited and unregulated contributions from corporations.
The Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention–both taking place in late summer–are relying on corporate donors to come up with the more than $55 million in private funds that needs to pay for the conventions in each city. According to the report, the more than 100 organizational donors to the two cities “host committees” (committees responsible for raising funds to pay for the conventions), are heavily involved in buying political influence. Since 2005, they have made nearly $100 million in contributions to federal candidates and parties via political action committees (PACs) as well as individual contributions. During the same period, they spent $700 million to lobby Congress and the Executive Branch.
Unfortunately, these contributions are subject to only minimal scrutiny and disclosure. While only a small minority of contributions come from entities in the host cities, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) says that these contributions are “motivated by a desire to promote the convention city and not by political considerations.” Election law classifies host committees as nonpartisan “charities” or “business leagues.” Moreover, host committees are not required to report their contributions or expenditures until 60 days after the conventions are over. In the past, host committees have occasionally volunteered this information, but neither the Denver or St. Paul host committees have done so this year.
However, while host committees are classified as “nonpartisan,” their money raising efforts often include written and oral promises of special access to federal elected officials and national party leaders. In both Denver and St. Paul, formal sponsorship and donor packages have been sold promoting “private” events with elected officials. Similarly, corporations seeking to shape public policy, are giving to both conventions, with 25 corporations donating to both host committees ensuring that regardless of what party wins the election that their voice will be heard.
In 2004, convention host committees raised over $100 million for the conventions by relying on similar donations.