Campaign contributions from anonymous

Amidst all the talk of campaign contribution transparency, as many call for the upending of rules and rulings that allow people to donate to political causes without fear of exposure, there is a renewed call for more anonymity.

In the Washington Post last week Bertram Levine and Michael Johnston made that case.

“The problem is not just how much money we allow into the system, or even how few individuals provide it. An equally serious, and somewhat ironic, issue is that transparency makes the appearances problem worse. If incumbents could not know the sources of contributions to their war chests, they could not “thank” their benefactors with policy “favors,” nor could they extract contributions through intimidation. Donors wanting to support challengers — who are routinely out-spent by solid margins under the current system — would not need to worry about reprisals from incumbents.”

If this solution seems ridiculous, consider this quote from a previous Post story.

Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees.

So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said.

Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly.

You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”

Two years ago This American Life, a show you can hear on Saturdays on KUOW, did one of the best treatments on politics and money that I have ever heard. Andrea Seabrook asked Barney Frank if money influenced politics:

Barney Frank: People say, “Oh, it doesn’t have any effect on me.” Look, if that were the case, we would be the only human beings in the history of the world who, on a regular basis, took significant amounts of money from perfect strangers and made sure that it had no effect on our behavior. That is not human nature.

Andrea Seabrook: On the other hand, he says, there are things that influence a politician besides money.

Barney Frank: If the voters have a position, the votes will kick money’s rear end any time. I’ve never met a politician– I’ve been in the legislative bodies for 40 years now– who, choosing between a significant opinion in his or her district and a number of campaign contributors, doesn’t go with the district.

And I have had people tell me– and we talk honestly to each other, we don’t lie to each other very often. You don’t survive if you do. As chairman of a committee, I’d be lobbying for votes. I have had members say to me, Mr. Chairman, I love you. Barney, you’re right. But I can’t do that politically because I’ll get killed in my district. No one has ever said to me, I’m sorry, but I got a big contributor I can’t offend.

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