Transparency? No, Alignment Drives PAC Decisions

Money In Politics

Abigail Spanberger won’t take money from corporate political action committees but will from ideological political action committees because the issue PACs have their position statements on their web pages.

Spanberger said that Friday to a business organization that donates no political money, Virginia FREE, but there were plenty of big donors or their representatives in the room.  Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch was there but didn’t really cover her remarks, other than to note she didn’t mention President Donald Trump (so he kindly did that for her.)

Continuing an argument I have made before, Spanberger’s careful tiptoe through this minefield is additional evidence of the powerful corrupting nature of our campaign finance system.  She tried to put a nice spin on her position that business money is too tainted to accept, blaming that in large part on voter perception.  When “face to face with voters” she hears that in Virginia corporate money has too much influence.

Here is what she says on her campaign web page:  “As we’ve increasingly dealt with the effects of special interests in campaign finance, it’s important that all elected officials take a stand against letting a small group of funders influence our elections. And because my commitment to campaign finance reform starts now, with my campaign, I will not accept any corporate PAC donations.”

Abigail Spanberger

Federal election rules have caps on donations that reformers at the Virginia state level can only dream about.  Corporations cannot write checks directly but must set up political action committees collecting funds from employees using the same strict limits.  She is probably correct however that the average voter has no clue about that.

In response to a line of questions from Virginia FREE director Chris Saxman she said hers was really a “a pro-business stance” because it allows her to meet with business leaders and lobbyists with no talk of money.  It’s “taken off the table.”

But then Saxman asked her about all the groups she does take money from.  Business PACs are only a subset of the giving world.  Special interests abound on all sides.  That’s when she said a big difference is those groups have their agendas on full and open display, but with a company “I can’t go to their website and see what those priorities are.”

With the League of Conservation Voters, with union groups, with Emily’s List and others Spanberger can research their public positions and decide whether “I am aligned with them.”  If she supports them she will accept their support.  Money is back on the table when they meet.

The statement about alignment had the ring of truth.  The argument about transparency is sophistry.  Many businesses are quite open about their goals and have clear records, and business associations fill their public pronouncements and websites with positions and background.  No, Spanberger is accepting money or rejecting it based on alignment with the donor in question.

She has given up telling voters the money doesn’t make much difference, that most donors just want access or good government, and instead seems to say know my donors and you know me.

Saxman asked the obvious follow up question about party committees such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  The DCCC takes tons of business PAC money.  Does that keep her from taking DCCC money?  “Do I dig deep into their financials?  Absolutely not.”   Complete the following sentence:  You can have your (blank) and (blank) it, too.

Pre-Trump Spanberger would not stand much chance and post-Kavanaugh I don’t see how she loses.  The female turnout November 6 is likely to be way above usual and that’s a goal Democrats and the media will drive forward for five more weeks.  The sword has two sides but one is a broadsword and the other is a dagger.

Her obvious candidate skills and public service record notwithstanding, not long ago the other positions she took during the Virginia FREE interview would be politically problematic – $15 minimum wage, hostility to the recent tax cut, acceptance of just about any position any union group might take.  All are secondary now.  On that point Schapiro is right.

Chris Saxman and Abigail Spanberger at Virginia FREE Oct. 28

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12 responses to “Transparency? No, Alignment Drives PAC Decisions”

  1. Let’s say we adopt an arrangement in which we get rid of corporate PACs but allow ideological or single-issue PACs to continue in existence. A simple prediction: We’ll start seeing a lot more single-issue PACs set up to influence policy on issues of importance to corporations. Corporate will simply redirect their money.

    When government controls and influences anything and everything, people with money will utilize their money to buy power. If they can’t buy power one way (campaign contributions), they’ll buy power some other way. The main difference is that the new way of buying power will be less transparent than the old way. Thanks for nothing.

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Pardon me while I wretch. This is an example of repulsive behavior. Spanberger tries to be both “I’m too moral to accept dirty money” while accepting “dirty money.” It’s the old do as I say not as I do. Either a candidate accepts PAC money or she/he doesn’t. Spanberger is playing judge and jury. When I accept PAC money, it’s good. When you do it’s bad. Who died and left her in charge of the world?

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    The PACs of any flavor and their anonymous money are the most pernicious threats to honest elections – bar the “interest” groups – Corporate or non-Corporate.

    There is no question that money wins elections and that a lack of money will cripple most campaigns – ask Mr. Stewart.

    In that regard, no viable candidate for Congress can win if they don’t take money – Ms. Spanberger is no exception even if she is claiming “some” “virtue”.

    Mr. Saxton though is GOP and a previous member of the GA and Virginia Free Leadership is very likely 99% GOP folks and it sure would be handly if they did post prominently on their web page – their donors.

    The worst of the worst political money is that which is anonymous and funds attack ADs…

    But if we are going to have a lot of money in politics – then both sides are going to do it… like an arms race.

  4. djrippert Avatar

    What does this mean ?

    Capital One
    Charles Schwab

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      It appears to mean she says one thing and does another. Hey, I don’t live in the 7th and do not intend to start covering races. Looks like a pretty good story for somebody…..It also means Open Secrets remain very inferior in value to our own VPAP….

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        If anyone at the Ministry has seen this, management has instructed the reporters not to cover. Sort of like Bob McDonnell and Tim Kaine taking goodies.

        There has to be a special place on the Ninth Ring of Hell for many MSM members.

    2. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      With Open Secrets, if I’m getting it right, checks from a corporate PAC and individual checks from persons employed by that business might be lumped together. So perhaps that’s just individual money from people who work at Dominion Resources. So much less dirty than PAC dollars, right?

      1. djrippert Avatar

        That could be, I really don’t know much about Open Secrets. At least individual Fed donations are capped.

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Yes, and that’s what we need at the state level. Nobody’s money is dirty (well, maybe the Mob) and nobody’s money is righteous. But Virginia should adopt tight limits on contributions from any entity (including affiliates) or individuals. Companies or issue groups giving tens of thousands to legislative races and caucuses and hundreds of thousands to statewide races – no matter what their goals – are buying influence and corrupting the process. The so-called “independent” (ha) expenditures should also be limited and fully transparent about their donors.

  6. Chris Saxman Avatar
    Chris Saxman

    We have a very bipartisan Board of Directors at Virginia FREE
    Our membership is limited to our 501 c 6 organization and we have donors in our 501 c 3 foundation
    All decisions on policy are made by broad consensus 0f our Evaluations Committee and Board of Directors.
    We do not endorse candidates and we do not donate to campaigns. We were formed in 1988 to inform the business community.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Indeed, Chris, I opened the post with a statement that VA Free itself is not a donor organization, but there were people in the room from groups or companies that give. Which is why you chose to ask those questions, I assume. Don’t pay too much attention to Larry and his partisan ravings, if that’s what prompted your comment.

  7. […] so far) allegedly outside her control. She is not disavowing them. We’ve already visited her tortured rationale for taking special interest assistance when it suits her, while refusing (“Get thee behind me, […]

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