Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Political Money is Water Part II

The Rain

As I explained in the part one of this series, rain is the simplest level of political money.

Rain is simply political contributions made directly to a politician’s election committee, from people who live within the legislative district (lawn). This level of contribution is simple because, honestly there isn’t a lot of political power generated for anyone in these transactions.

Politicians love lots of contributions from “Joe average” in their legislative district. Many report the smallest contributions, even if they are below the minimum reportable standard. A long list of contributors from the home district looks good on paper. Who can question a $100 check from Aunt Betsy who lives anywhere in the district. Another reason politicians love these kinds of contributions is just about everyone in your district that writes a check – no matter how small – is extremely likely to vote for you.

When someone goes into the voting booth, and has to make a choice between a stranger, and someone they’ve written a check to, odds are great that the familiar name gets the vote.

You get something else with that check. The address of a known supporter who lives in the district and who is likely to cast a favorable vote. Someone you want to encourage voting, and wanting to have a sense of familiarity.

It isn’t about how much they give; it is the giving that is important to you as a politician. You will probably spend more money keeping some of them on the mailing list, than they give, but they are votes.

That said, because these are direct contributions in smaller amounts, that are disconnected from each other, there is little risk that any particular position or vote will upset a large segment of this base. They know the politician personally, and the connection is less about a specific issue and more about personal relationships.

These kinds of contributions actually empower the candidate/politician because a long list of these kinds of contributions shows support within the district. That long list is likely to discourage opposition, as much as a large bank account.

The individual contributors are not empowered, because if the politician actually does upset one or two, the loss of funds is insignificant as a percentage of the total war chest, and that decision to not contribute isn’t particularly noteworthy to anyone except the individual who made the choice to stop giving over some issue.

The reality is individual contributors seldom wield political power. Though people who aggregate those contributions (wells and wholesale water suppliers) do wield that power.

In other words, the little guy’s money carries an insignificant amount of clout in the political process.

That does NOT mean that constituents are not important to a politician. Lobbyists and other organizations prize getting back home constituent contacts with a Congressman.. Aggregation of money is important in the measuring of power in politics. Likewise, aggregating constituents back home generates power for the aggregator more than the individual making the contact.

There’s a theme developing here.

Next: Wells and how aggregating money locally begins to shift power in the process.

Read more!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Political Money is Water

If Politics were your front lawn, Money would be water.

The funny thing about watering your lawn is that the more you water it, the more it needs watered. And if you don’t water it, some undesirable things start to happen.

The water metaphor works well in the politics of money and the power that flows. I will spend several posts exploring all of these issues. I am less interested in expounding on how money is used in campaigns, than I am illuminating the process of how money becomes a source of power in the political arena.

But the first step in the process of political power starts at the local level. If you are a US Congressman, you have a district. That district is your lawn. If you are lucky, your district has adequate resources (money/water) to make for a nice green lawn. A few rough spots here and there, but still a nice lawn. If you take care of business, the lawn will continue to stay green and you will be happy. There might just be enough rain in your district to keep the lawn happy and healthy. Think of contributions from constituents within your district as rain.

Now if there are parts of your lawn that aren’t doing as well, you might be motivated to do a little watering. You can’t rely on the rain, which comes in the form of small contributions in blocks of $250 to $1,000 dollars. You need a reliable source of water that can meet your demand when and where you need it. You might try drilling a well or two in your lawn. A well would be someone or some organization in your district, that has the ability to tap water and deliver it to you in amounts you need – on demand.

The wells really only aggregate the same rain you were receiving on your lawn. But they are efficient and can take advantage of rain that might have been wasted in the last shower meaning you can get more water when you need it. There’s little value in standing around waiting for rain and watching for clouds. But when it comes to wells, a little attention and work can keep the water flowing. Your lawn can continue to thrive, unless you have trouble with one of your wells. If for some reason a well decides to stop flowing, you are no longer able to maintain the lawn like you had been. Meaning suddenly that well has some power over you. When you are receiving water on demand, there is a downside. You have to maintain and manage the well, lest it will stop producing.

If for some reason, your wells can’t meet your needs. Or your lawn has suddenly been changed to include a field of cockleburs, or there is a sudden drought, or you decide that you want a much larger lawn (Say a Senate seat), you may need to use a wholesale water supplier who can bring water in from many wells and transport it thousands of miles to your lawn.

Wholesale water suppliers can bring big pipes to your lawn and help you meet all of your water needs. These can be lobbyists, associations, political parties, professional fundraisers, leadership, or Political Action Committees. Life can suddenly get very good for your lawn.

These wholesale water suppliers are supplying many people who are working to maintain their lawn. They can be particular, and they may need some very special attention. That field of cockleburs can’t be defeated without their help. Of course, with their help comes reliance on their water, and the worry that it might be shut off for one or more reasons. The real problem with wholesale water suppliers is you never know which rain or well supplied the water and what the actual cost might be.

Political power flows to those who control the water. (Money)

Next a closer look at rain, wells, and wholesale water suppliers.

Read more!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

In politics it is ALL about the money

In Politics – It is ALL about the money

That seems like a statement that most people believe, but most don’t understand all of its implications.  It is more than who contributes to whom.  Who is spending money, or controlling it, in the political realm is the hub of the political arena.  Contributors are sources of money.  But money generates political power for a lot more people than contributors.

I got a kick in the ass about writing on the Money and Politics issue when I saw yet another national political writer, delving into the issues associated with the various political money tools.  The article focused on tribal gaming, lobbyists and political contributions, but frankly didn’t do a very good job of exploring how and why the various money sources were used. But he wrote about many of the tools. His story illustrates however, how powerless contributors actually are at times.

I’ve come to the conclusion that reporters don’t really understand the money and politics thing, or they don’t care to tell the truth about it.  Those who really understand this issue, generally have no incentive to publicly discuss it.  And those who publicly discuss politics and money don’t seem to “get it,” or are affiliated with a partisan issue and don’t really want to expose all they know.

I’ve been there. It isn’t pretty. And I’d like to illuminate the issue completely.  Neither Democrats or Republicans will be happy about all that I have to say, but I hope my readers will be able to look at who is funding whom, and who is receiving money from whom, and get a better understanding of why issues are moving in a particular way.

Money is a source of political power.  And that power flows to many people in many ways.

Read more!

Just Getting Started

I bring you a new blog, dedicated to Money in Politics. You will find a candid and direct analysis of how money works in politics. Who get what and why. Road maps through the maze of political funding mechanisms and the reason each funding scheme is used.

I'm one who has intimate knowledge of politics and money at the highest levels. I'll maintain anonymity for now, so I can feel free to tell you everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I decided to go this route because, as I read around the net, I find nothing that accurately portrays what is happening in political money, and specifically campaign finance. Mainstream media, and its affiliated pundits either don't understand the finer points of this issue or they choose to look the other way. Those who truly know how it works, have little or no incentive to reveal what they know. And those who speak publicly on these issues are generally -- Idiots.

This blog will not likely be as topical as my other effort The Rail (http://the-rail.blogspot.com), rather it will be dedicated to information about a very important subject.

Read more!