Rhode Island’s former district 1 representative, Patrick Kennedy, made an appearance this weekend in the New York Times.
The article is about the coincidence of big-dollar donations with White House visits. In fact, writers Mike McIntire and Michael Luo find that about 20% of donors giving $30,000 or less to President Obama and the Democrat Party reelection funds visited the White House, while 75% of those donating $100,000 or more did. Often, according to the article, they are accompanied in their visits by people looking to sway the President on a particular issue.
Of the handful big donors profiled in the article, none were as open about the process as Kennedy, who, calling Democrat political operatives his “friends,” says, “”it won’t hurt when I ask them for a favor if they don’t see me as a slouch”:
… Patrick J. Kennedy, the former representative from Rhode Island, who donated $35,800 to an Obama re-election fund last fall while seeking administration support for a nonprofit venture, said contributions were simply a part of “how this business works.”
“If you want to call it ‘quid pro quo,’ fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I do my part.”
Mr. Kennedy visited the White House several times to win support for One Mind for Research, his initiative to help develop new treatments for brain disorders.
It’s interesting to read the explanations that McIntire and Luo elicit. Some of the donors argue that they are Obama supporters, anyway. Others point out that they’re just as active when Republicans are in office.
Whatever the case, the dollar amounts and the access that they appear to procure give some context to local efforts to burden grassroots organizations with reporting requirements for donations in the hundreds when campaigning not for politicians, but on ballot questions. There’s hardly a comparison, and finely tuned, local campaign-finance laws are miles away from the location of the real corruption.
As for disclosure, Kennedy almost makes it seem as if being known to have given is part of the point. When there’s a baseline ante, individual lobbyists and politicians hardly stand out when they play by the corrupt rules. By contrast, as described at the link in the previous paragraph, even small-time donations more locally, especially those that are issue-centered, open the door for intimidation and harassment.
In all cases, the solution is the same: reduce the number of matters in which the government has a role and the extent of its influence. If there weren’t so much to gain by not being seen as a slouch, fewer special interests would think it worth their resources.