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Diapered donors dodge delimited donations

Finally, a campaign scandal not just Hillary's! Underaged donors giving the maximum to Presidential campaigns is becoming a common way around campaign finance limits for candidates of both parties, reports Matthew Mosk of the Washington Post:


Just how much campaign cash is coming from children is uncertain -- the FEC does not require donors to provide their age. But the amount written by those identifying themselves as students on contribution forms has risen dramatically this year, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. During the first six months of the 2000 presidential campaign, students gave $338,464. In 2004, that rose to $538,936.

This year, the amount has nearly quadrupled, to $1,967,111.

"What's driving it is a desire by maxed-out donors to max out on their maxing out," said Fred Wertheimer, president of campaign finance reform organization Democracy 21 who sought, unsuccessfully, to outlaw child donations five years ago. "More often than not, you're dealing with people who are simply trying to circumvent the limits of what they can give."

Congress tried to outlaw political contributions from those under age 18 as part of the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002, but the Supreme Court struck down that provision as an infringement on the constitutional rights of minors. With that ruling in mind, the Federal Election Commission wrote new regulations two years ago that tried to balance what it considered a legitimate desire among some children to make political contributions against the possibility that parents would seek to pad their donations by funneling money through children.

The regulations established a three-step test to determine whether a contribution is acceptable: It must be made with the child's money, the parent can not reimburse the child for making the donation, and the contribution has to be knowing and voluntary.


Read the whole story at the link above. Now, I think the Supreme Court decision was correct - minors shouldn't be prohibited from making truly voluntary political contributions with their own money. However, that doesn't mean we should be suckers. Realistically, the number of minors who would give the maximum donation out of their own money to a political candidate are very, very few. You know as well as I do most of these kiddie funds are from the parents or extended family members trying to circumvent the legal limits.

But it's just the latest in a series of attempts to get around legal limits. People have been working around the limits ever since limits were first enacted in 1974.

No matter how many times we've changed those laws and "tightened up the loopholes," donors keep finding new and different ways to evade the limits, which are completely arbitrary. Of course they do - with the federal government spending $3 trillion every year and Presidents and Senators and Congressmen having a big say in who gets what of it, there are thousands of people and groups who wish to cultivate friendships with elected officials, and one of the best ways to ensure a politician remembers your name is to write his/her campaign a honkin' big check.

That's why I'm against limits of any kind. The only restriction on donations to federal candidates should be that they come from American sources - citizens, or corporations headquartered in America - and be instantly and fully disclosed before the money can be used by the campaign. If George Soros wants to give Dennis Kucinich $1 billion to run for Moonbat-in-Chief, let him - so long as it's publicly posted before it can be spent. If Halliburton wants to underwrite a Cheney campaign, why not? - as long as we know where his money comes from, we can take that into consideration before voting.

The entire idea that "money corrupts" is anti-American. This country is the Land of Opportunity - which for at least two centuries was universally understood to mean "the Opportunity to Make a Buck." Politicians who want to take graft will find a way to do it, as Duke Cunningham and William Jefferson have demonstrated. Campaign funds have to be strictly accounted for - it's hard to even get your wife and kids on the payroll anymore, much less the in-laws and hangers-on in your "posse" - and don't represent the big ol' piggy banks they once did.

For centuries, we had no limits on individual contributions, delayed paperwork reporting them that was inaccessible to most citizens and rarely submitted before an election, and had fewer outright crooks in office than we find now. It's not the money, Honey, it's the man.

In 1968 (as I've noted before over on Politics), Senator Eugene McCarthy's upstart, antiwar campaign against a sitting President of his own party was financed mainly by three individuals who gave him over $1 million each (one gave $3 mil). If not for that money, McCarthy couldn't have run, wouldn't have embarrassed LBJ in New Hampshire to force him out of the race, etc. Yet no one ever insinuated that McCarthy was tainted by the rich men who backed him. In fact, the Senator's nickname was "Clean Gene," because of his supposedly high ethical standards.

The easiest way to cut down on rule-breaking is to reduce the number of rules. We could do that and increase openness in campaigning with a few simple changes, and then maybe two year-olds won't have to max out political donations out of their college funds . . .


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Comments (5)

There's almost no way to pr... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

There's almost no way to prove a parent is reimbursing a child for contributing. And since the caps are arbitrary anyway, give dependent children a different cap. $250 for 4-12 and $500 for 13-17. This at least mutes the problem somewhat. And there's no way I'd have even those sums of money to spare out of what was truly my money at those ages.

Otherwise with a cap system in place, you give advantage to those willing to circumvent the rules and punish those who follow them. And yes that's the problem with regulation, once you start you often can't do just a little. Or the system will be grossly exploited.

A "child" under 17 is legal... (Below threshold)

A "child" under 17 is legally incapable of making contribution, just as s/he is incapable of making a contract. It is irrelevant whether or not any "reimbursement" is made -- that's a pure fiction, unless there is some minor out there with an independent fortune managed by an independent trustee who doesn't consult with the minor's parent(s)-- a remote possibility.

I agree that this is the product of spending limits on individuals and another twist that keeps the FEC and election law lawyers in business.

No limit, full disclosure and PACs and 527s would be out of business.

I can't believe the WaPo is... (Below threshold)
Mike:

I can't believe the WaPo is targeting and smearing and stalking these poor families like this. Shameful.

Good catch Mike, I look for... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

Good catch Mike, I look forward to OUTRAGE by mantis and the rest who were OUTRAGED by Michele Malkin.

As for campaign finance reform, make any size donation legal as long as all donations are disclosed. I could probably even be convinced to allow foreigners to donate so we could see who donated to whom.

That would be instructive.

<a href="http://www.washing... (Below threshold)
yetanotherjohn:

Elrick Williams's toddler niece Carlyn may be one of the youngest contributors to this year's presidential campaign. The 2-year-old gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

So did her sister and brother, Imara, 13, and Ishmael, 9, and her cousins Chan and Alexis, both 13. Altogether, according to newly released campaign finance reports, the extended family of Williams, a wealthy Chicago financier, handed over nearly a dozen checks in March for the maximum allowed under federal law to Obama.

So explain how a 2 year old earned the money and made a "voluntary and knowing" choice. But of course this is democrats so lets just ignore the nasty side implications.

The campaign finance law is wrong, but if we are going to have it we need to enforce it.

I would suggest a fine of 10x the donation, with the proceeds to pay down the national deficit. We could balance the budget off the Hillary campaign alone.




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