Jim Burt: “Plus ca change . . . In 1941, while Congress was holding hearings on whether to renew the peacetime draft and extend the service of the first year’s draftees, who had only been brought in for twelve months of training, there was a gathering of Republican congressmen at the Army-Navy Club in Washington at which Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall spoke strongly and eloquently in favor of the renewal and extension. As you will find in Joseph Persico’s Roosevelt’s Centurions at p. 7, “One balky congressman told Marshall, ‘You put the case very well, but I will be damned if I am going to go along with Mr. Roosevelt.’ The usually unflappable Marshall exploded: ‘You are going to let plain hatred of the personality dictate to you to do something that you realize is very harmful to the interest of the country!’” The bill passed by one vote. If it had not, less than six months before the Pearl Harbor attack two-thirds of the Army’s enlisted men and three-quarters of its officers would have had to be released from service. One party in Congress is still reflexively opposing anything a sitting president endorses, even when they agree with him. Some things just don’t appear to change.”
And some things do — like the cap on federal campaign contributions, which rise with inflation each cycle. The F.E.C. has just issued the new limits, and you’ll be delighted to know you can now give any candidate for federal office — House, Senate, or Presidency — $2,700 for his or her primary contest, up from $2,600 (even if he or she is running unopposed) and $2,700 for the general, so $5,400 in all. And you may now give national party committees $33,400 each year instead of $32,400. (And, by the way? It would thrill me if you did.)
If you think this is just a tad obscene, I agree. But hang on — it gets ever so much worse.
Until the Bush Supreme Court handed the Republicans a decision last year called McCutcheon, the most you or I or the Koch brothers could give to federal candidates and committees over the two-year federal election cycle was $123,200. If your spouse did likewise: $246,400. That, too, would have been adjusted for inflation this week, except that with its McCutcheon decision the Court removed the aggregate limit.
Then, as a condition for not shutting down the government before they left town for Christmas a few weeks ago, the Republicans made another change. To each of each political party’s three national committees they added two additional, triple-size ($100,200) buckets — one for building operations, one for potential recounts — and, in the case of the DNC and RNC, a third triple-size bucket for the party conventions.
So now — ours being a nation of “one man, one vote” democracy where everyone has an equal say — here’s what each of us can give over the current 2015-2016 cycle: $5,400 to each of 535 House and Senate candidates and a presidential candidate or two: $2.9 million . . . plus $334,000 to the DNC’s or RNC’s three buckets each year, $668,000 for the cycle . . . plus $233,800 each to the DSCC and DCCC or RSCC and RCCC buckets each year, $935,000 for the cycle . . . plus $10,000 a year to the federal accounts of each of the 50 state parties, $1 million for the cycle . . . plus $5,000 a year to each of an unlimited number of federal PACs, like the NRA’s PAC or the Sierra Club’s PAC or any given Congressman’s PAC, which for the sake of argument let’s arbitrarily call another $100,000. So: $5.6 million. If your spouse did likewise, $11.2 million.
You or I might have trouble finding $5.6 million or $11.2 million this cycle but to the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson it’s chump change, leaving them lots of room to give much more: to thousands of state legislative candidates, to candidates for governor and secretary of state, to the national governors’ committees (the DGA and RGA), to the non-federal accounts of state parties, to so-called “dark money” committees for “independent expenditures” — and more.
The Koch brothers and their friends have publicly committed $889 million to win the White House and make further legislative gains in 2016. If they succeed, they will also have bought the Supreme Court for the next two or three decades.
I’m not entirely comfortable with this.