Blaser: Give all you want, politicians will take more

Randy Blaser
Randy Blaser

Everyone hates money in politics, which explains the knee-jerk reactions to last week’s Supreme Court rulings lifting some campaign limits on individual contributions.

My friends on the left are nearly in hysterics, decrying the decision as a blow to democracy and concentrating more power in the hands of the rich. Meanwhile, my friends on the right proclaim it is a victory for free speech, seemingly blind to the corrupting influence of money in politics.

There is no denying politics is awash in money and it is corrupting our politics. We in Illinois know that better than anyone.

But I’m not that upset about the decision, and I’m not that concerned it will change much of anything.

Before last week’s ruling, an individual could only contribute $2,600 to a candidate for federal office per election cycle, and limited to a grand total of $48,600 to all candidates.

Last week’s ruling keeps the limit to any one candidate at $2,600. However, it nixes the aggregate contribution limit of $48,600 to all candidates. Now before you start bellowing that the rich will end up giving tens of millions of dollars to candidates, consider that there are only 535 members of Congress. A maximum $2,600 contribution to each of them amounts to only $1,391,000.

And if some rich idiot — and according to my friends on the left and right there are only rich idiots — wants to give the maximum allowed to both the Democrat and Republican candidate in every congressional race, that’s still only $2,782,000 (Actually less because only one third the Senate is up for election).

Of course, there are still the Political Action Committees set up by the parties and leadership committees set up by individual legislators, all created to skirt campaign limits established after the money free-for-all of Watergate.

Politics is still awash in money. We just account for it better now. I’m really not worried by what individuals give, or how much they give. I’m more concerned about politicians having so much money.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Senate Majority Whip, has $5.6 million in his political war chest. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who ranks just below Durbin, has $11 million.

Here at home, the Friends of Michael J. Madigan Committee, the House speaker’s campaign fund, has $1.9 million in the bank at the end of 2013. First Daughter Lisa Madigan controls $4.7 million in her Citizens for Lisa Madigan campaign committee.

If we really want campaign funding reform in this country, we’re aiming at the wrong targets. We should be limiting what the politicians and the candidates collect, not what individuals give.

It is the greed of politicians that is driving corruption and ruining the political discourse in this country. Rod Blagojavich wasn’t corrupt because one person could give him a lot of money. He was corrupt because we allowed him to raise as much cash as he could to wage his campaign against decency.

What if every member of the House could only raise a grand total of $500,000 or a senator could only raise $1 million? Would Madigan be as powerful in Illinois politics if he and the other 117 House members could only take in $250,000? What if he, and every politician, was restricted in giving contributions to their favored candidates? What if politicians could only raise their money from within their district?

The amount of money in politics today is repugnant, not because people give. After all, it is their right to participate in the political process. It is repugnant because there is no end to what politicians will take, and they are the ones we need to regulate.

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