Now that the media and public have taken advantage of the opportunity to review the more than 20,000 leaked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, a few (if any) surprises surfaced in the correspondence. While the embarrassment in confirming what was already suspected about the DNC’s political activities led to resignations of top officials, it is puzzling that few have focused on following the much more intriguing money trail. There are many interesting pieces to puzzle in the current batch of emails that should at least raise suspicions, and likely investigations into possible illegal activity.
Following the money trail may actually show that the activities by DNC staff, supporters, and federal officials were more than just embarrassing, but also violations of Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations. While I may not be the best advocate for FEC regulations, (having won a Supreme Court case against the agency) we must keep the system fair for all Americans especially challengers and outsiders who do not have the inherent advantages that incumbents do. The government, itself, should not support certain candidates and then limit the contributions of outside people.
We all know that politicians and interest groups spend a great deal of time fundraising. Money is essential in getting a political message to the people. The more money injected into the process, the more lively the debate and discussion over issues can become. This robust public debate helps us all make more informed decisions.
Whenever politicians attempt to thwart the raising of money or restrict its spending, we must question the motivations as to why they want to limit the power of themselves and others to effectively communicate with the public. We should not re-elect incumbents who work to squash first amendment rights because they have no legitimate reason to limit political speech and assembly. Incumbents have access to money and expertise and need not limit outsiders who may have none. This is precisely why more money in politics is actually a good thing – and why the Supreme Court agreed with me that trying to stop Americans from supporting candidates of their choosing is a violation of our First Amendment right to Free Speech.
However, some of the leaked DNC emails suggest that federal officials on this Administrations’ payroll were using their office to sell access to elected officials and policymakers – something much worse than trying to sway primary voters to a favored candidate. What has been missing from the media coverage of these leaked emails is serious scrutiny of the far-too-cozy relationships they show between the DNC fundraisers and the president’s staff (paid for by taxpayer dollars), with links the Obama Foundation.
Taxpayers should not be on the hook to pay for the perks used by fundraisers to line their candidates and party committee’s pockets, nor for the future aspirations of political leaders. However it looks like we have been. Emails indicate a correlation between the money coming into the Democratic Party and access to the President and resulting patronage. Government officials may have even played a role in coordinating meetings with donors to the DNC to ask for additional support for the Obama’s Foundation (or its future activities.)
Political campaign donations are normally disclosed – but large donations to the Obama Foundation (or Clinton Foundation for that matter) have the possibility of directly influencing – potentially corruptly – a candidate or officer holder in their official duties official decisions – but without any disclosures. Our government is once again becoming a mechanism to enrich elected officials – a pattern of public corruption – entirely outside the transparent campaign finance regime – we’d hoped had long since faded.
We can reasonably expect a President of either party to be its fundraiser in chief – using the prestige of the office, personal appearances, and political successes to show donors that they are putting their support to good use. But, there is a line – and laws to prevent the direct selling of access to elected officials.
The leaked DNC emails read like the tip of the iceberg of yet another corrupt system of dishonest graft – and it looks like there is vastly more lurking beneath the surface.
The apparent collusion between the DNC finance team and White House staffers clearly suggest a line was crossed, but those involved have thus far evaded scrutiny and no one – it seems – is following the money trail.
Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama-based electrical engineer, is the successful plaintiff in McCutcheon vs FEC and author of Outsider Inside the Supreme Court.