Given its utter disregard for campaign finance law, the Democratic Party’s embrace of “campaign finance reform” is something to behold.
Reflecting on her party’s first 100 days in power, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cited H.R. 1 — dubiously dubbed the “For the People Act” — as the most important “symbol of change” passed this year.
In reality, the bill is anything but populist in nature, imposing a litany of new campaign finance regulations on those wishing to engage in the political process, while infringing on their free speech and associational rights.
Spanning nearly 600 pages, H.R. 1 would require unprecedented levels of disclosure from nonprofit advocacy groups, trade associations, and charities — all in the name of “transparency.” It flies in the face of reason: Empirical evidence has long suggested mandatory disclosure of political activity leads to a drastic decline in political participation. This most adversely affects the “little guy” — everyday Americans who want to have their voices heard, but lack the means to take on Big Government.
Message aside, the Democratic Party is simply the wrong messenger for reform. For years now, high-profile Democrats have played fast and loose with existing campaign finance laws, in search of high-dollar donations at all costs. Some of the most egregious campaign finance scandals to date have arisen from the left.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — the radical New York socialist and media darling — is the latest poster child for illicit activity and sheer hypocrisy. First, she illegally funneled thousands of dollars in official campaign funds through “Brand New Congress PAC” and “Brand New Congress LLC” to her boyfriend, Riley Roberts. Then, Ocasio-Cortez improperly converted House resources to her non-official, personal use by obtaining an official email address for Roberts.
Most recently, Ocasio-Cortez and her campaign manager, Saikat Chakrabarti, were implicated in a “subsidy scheme” that ran afoul of multiple campaign finance laws. Through the Justice Democrats PAC, Brand New Congress PAC, and Brand New Congress LLC, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti aimed to “subsidize cheap assistance for Ocasio-Cortez and other candidates at rates far below market value.”
Does that sound like a “reformer” — or just another self-serving Washington elite?
Ocasio-Cortez, of course, is not alone. In 2016, Hillary Clinton presided over an $84 million money laundering scheme that involved the Democratic National Committee, dozens of state Democratic parties, and hundreds of liberal mega-donors — all of whom conspired to funnel excessive six-figure donations to Clinton’s campaign.
The Hillary Victory Fund solicited cash from donors like Calvin Klein and “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, with money being sent through state chapters and back to the DNC before ending up with the Clinton campaign.
Yet the Federal Election Commission refuses to hold Clinton and Ocasio-Cortez accountable for their actions. The agency with the responsibility to ensure that Washington elites play by the rules seems to be suggesting the rules don’t apply to them. In fact, this month marks the one-year anniversary of a lawsuit filed against the FEC, accusing the agency of shirking its duty to the American people.
One year later, the FEC is no closer to punishing the Clinton machine for conspiring to rig the 2016 election. The same goes for Ocasio-Cortez, who continually ignores the law while portraying herself as a moral crusader. Clinton may have failed to win the White House, and Ocasio-Cortez’s approval rating may be tanking, but that’s not the point — illegal activity must be punished.
Otherwise, the politically entrenched get a free pass to step on the rest of us, and the rest of us begin losing trust in our political system.
What is the FEC doing, if not its job? Americans deserve an answer — and action.
Dan Backer is a veteran campaign counsel, having served more than 100 candidates, PACs, and political organizations. He is founding attorney of political.law, a campaign finance and political law firm in Alexandria, Virginia.
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