When you’ve got a running Internet search on your state’s name, curious items sometimes find their way into your field of vision. Such is the case with this article about the campaign finances of Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin, a Democrat:
Benjamin also received 11 donations from various attorneys and businesspeople from the state of Rhode Island. The 11 gifts from the Rhode Islanders totaled $8,300, or 36 percent of the money the mayor raised for the quarter.
The donations from the Rhode Island residents were logged on June 6.
The article mentions that Benjamin was in Boston for the next few days for a U.S. Conference of Mayors, so one can easily imagine the scene: Partisan organizers set him up with an event here and there (maybe he knows somebody from Rhode Island), and a handful of wealthy people were able to give him enough money that it amounted to a notable third of his fundraising for the quarter.
Still, one thinks of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo and her jaunts across the country to gather up campaign funds, making up a majority of her collections. What are these people buying?
Some of them, no doubt, hope to make a good impression for purposes of inside deals, but all of them? Is this just a broad network of “you back my guy, and I’ll back yours,” thus multiplying campaign donations beyond legal limits?
That possibility raises a counter-cultural thought: If these wealthy “attorneys and businesspeople” could give more of their political donations locally, there might not be a market for this national network. Sure, that means they’d be able to give money directly to the people who can give them political favors, but one suspects the politicians know who, locally, is making connections for them in other states.
Moreover, in the case of Raimondo, her massive fundraising haul is starting to look like a lifeline for her reelection, and ultimately, the quality it rewards is little more than the ability to tap into a national funding vein. At least with larger amounts of local contributions, the funds would be an indication of local support, which would be bound up with local concerns and our own internal political battles.