May 31, 2015 by

e9988464-c942-46a3-8e78-7b87eb22c7d8-620x372                           Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus: a thumbs up for mega-donors. Photograph: Rick WIlking/Reuters

A provision quietly inserted into last year’s Cromnibus spending bill increased the maximum party committees can accept to over $334,000 – and Republicans are out-raising Democrats among these mega-donors by an 11-to-1 margin

Ben Jacobs and Russ Choma in Washington   THE GUARDIAN


A new loophole stuck into a budget bill last year allows donors to gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties. However, only the Republican party is benefiting from it.

A provision quietly inserted into the combination continuing resolution/omnibus spending bill – or Cromnibus – last year increased the maximum that party committees can accept from $33,400 to over $334,000 each year. (The limits were also increased for senate and congressional campaign committees to $234,000 apiece.)

And while Republicans are already taking advantage of this and have several donors giving this amount, Democrats are not keeping up.

According to the most recent FEC finance reports, while the Republican National Committee has six donors who have given the maximum of $334,600 to the GOP, not a single Democratic donor has even approached these totals in gifts to the Democratic National Committee. This imbalance is less pronounced but still present in contributions to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Campaign Committee versus those to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The result is that even as Democrats worry about the growing rise of Republican Super Pacs heavily funded by conservative mega-donors, they are lagging even further in competing with the GOP in this new category of hard money.

Yet, this shortfall isn’t necessary fatal for Democrats yet. The additional $300,000 that donors can give is only allowed to go to special accounts earmarked for specific purposes, party headquarters maintenance, recount preparations and presidential conventions. These are segregated from the party’s regular accounts, which means that the money cannot legally be used for other purposes.

But it’s still likely to make an impact. Through the parties’ April fundraising report, the GOP is outraising Democrats in these new special accounts by a margin of over 11 to 1. This gap is particularly noticeable with the party committees. The RNC has raised over $36m with 101 donors giving the old maximum of $33,400 and six giving the new maximum of $334,000. In contrast, the DNC lags behind, raising only $20m with 32 donors at the old maximum and none at the new.

Both the DNC and RNC declined to comment to the Guardian about this fundraising and whether it had any implications for the 2016 election.

However, Joe Sandler, a prominent Democratic election lawyer, told the Guardian that he suspected that this was just a matter of “timing and sequencing”. He thought the DNC eventually “will take advantage” of the new rules, particularly for funding conventions. “My guess is that that’s a temporary difference,” Sandler said.

But for now, this temporary difference gives the GOP a significant advantage. The headquarters account is a relatively amorphous category that can go to building maintenance for offices across the country, and the recount account means that campaigns don’t have to hold some money back before Election Day just in case the race is too close to call. It frees up valuable hard money that can be used to elect candidates up and down the ticket in 2016, and gives additional advantages to the party which can attract the most big donors.

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