One of the most surprising components added to the 1,600-page, $1 trillion government spending bill, also known as the "CROmnibus," unveiled Tuesday night was the inclusion of a provision that enables the dramatic increase of political contributions to political parties. The provision has caused campaign finance groups to voice concern about what they say will add a new stream of money into the political system.
In the post-Citizens United era where unlimited amounts of money can be donated to super PAC’s and 501c4s, political parties have been confined to existing law that strictly limits the amount a person can contribute.
The two-page “rider” tucked into the final pages of the massive bill would ease those limits, further gutting the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law passed in 2002 that sought to rein in the amount of money spent in politics. The new rider would allow donors to increase their contributions by about ten times - or up to $300,000 to one political party entity. It was pushed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, a Congressional aide told NBC’s Frank Thorpe.
Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that individuals and corporations could give an unlimited amount of money to third party political groups, politics has seen a proliferation of money in the system. Officials in both the Democrat and Republican Parties have bemoaned the influence these outside players have had in the system, believing that party control over the political process has been diluted.
But campaign finance watchdog groups call the new measure “terrible” and say that it won’t reverse the flow of money back into the party system.
“There’s no question in my mind that when money comes in through a spigot, others figure out how to raise even more money,” Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizens’ Congress Watch division, said.
While Democrats insist they are fundamentally opposed to unlimited campaign contributions, Republicans have had more specific concern about some outside groups they have spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat incumbents considered too moderate.
But Alan Abramowitz, political science professor at Emory University said while the parties might like to have the money to better control the message, since they are banned from coordinating with some outside groups, he doesn’t see this measure changing much of anything.
“I would see this as a way to make this easier for the same wealthy individuals to donate to the parties,” he said.
The same measure also bans the use of taxpayers’ funds to pay for presidential political conventions, which is backed by many Republicans. Gilbert also disagrees with this measure, saying it enable the same “millionaires and billionaires access that the rest of us don’t.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she wants the campaign finance provision pulled from the government funding bill before Democrats can support it.