More political money ball

More political money ball

- in Fitzsimon File

It is usually not hard to find examples of the corrosive role of money in our political process and this year is no exception.  The current campaign of Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and recent revelations about the 2004 campaign of Governor Mike Easley provide the latest evidence that raising money has become the focus of political campaigns. 

The Charlotte Observer recently reported that Easley received $56,000 in campaign contributions in 2004 from donors with connections to land bought by the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund.  Ten of the donors gave a total of $40,000 three weeks after the land sale was final.

The Observer reports that the Chair of the Trust Fund Board said Easley’s office called him to encourage the Board to buy the land.  Many of the donors had never contributed to political campaigns before and more than half of them are Republicans, yet they each donated $4,000 to Easley, the maximum contribution allowed under the law.

The Observer story also finds that one of the donors was 19 and another was 20, hardly fitting the profile of typical big donors to political campaigns. What is typical is the appearance that the contributions were made in exchange for a specific action by a state official who needed money to be reelected.

Easley’s spokespeople vehemently deny there was any connection between the land sale and the contributions and maybe that is true. But it sure looks like government was for sale in the land deal and that is damaging enough.

Rep. Virginia Foxx didn’t get a bundle of cash after a land deal, but she is raising money to fund other campaigns while at the same time claiming she needs more money because she is in a difficult race.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Foxx has given more money to other candidates and the Republican Party than her opponent Roger Sharpe has raised during the entire campaign. Foxx has raised $1.2 million. Sharpe has raised $76,000. Foxx has sent $35,000 to Republican candidates and $81,000 more to Republican Party Committees.

Foxx may be disingenuous, but she isn’t doing anything illegal. She is just playing the political money game for all its worth, pleading poverty, yet raising money to give away to build up her credibility with other politicians and the Republican Party establishment. 

Foxx’s contributors are funding campaigns across the country in a version of legal money laundering, helping candidates they don’t even know with Foxx’s facilitation.

It is all part of the money chase that dominates politics, where the size of a candidate’s war chest is considered far more important than positions on any issues and where decisions by state government are understandably viewed in the context of financial benefits that correlate to campaign contributions.

The outdated cliché is that money is the mother’s milk of politics. The truth is that big money is the main pollutant in our political process that raises suspicions and shakes the confidence of the voters in the people who represent them. Seems like time for a new system of financing campaigns.


About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.