Written by Zoe Bridges-Curry and Angela Canterbury.
"I look forward to the day, by 2008, when Americans can turn on
their TVs and watch the Nokia Democratic Convention, or the AT&T
Republican National Convention."
– Bradley Smith, former Republican member of the FEC
[$] that campaign finance and ethics watchdogs will be out in force,
keeping tabs on the events and making noise over rules violations.
Campaign finance laws like the Fair Elections Campaign Act
(FECA) were created in part to end the undo influence of corporate
donors. Contradicting the spirit of these laws, political parties
continue to use the national party conventions to secure millions of
dollars in corporate contributions, funneling contributions through the
supposedly nonpartisan host committees. The Federal Elections
Commission (FEC) has even approved this maneuver, thereby allowing
wealthy corporations privileged access to elected officials at the
For the political parties, the conventions are the perfect
opportunity to circumvent existing restrictions on soft-money
donations, because donors can make lavish contributions to the
conventions’ host committees. A report recently released by the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI),
estimated that approximately 80% of the estimated $112 million needed
to hold the conventions will come from private donors, primarily large
As both the report and a quick visit to the DNC convention website
make clear, in return for sizeable donations, host committees for both
parties offer corporations and other big donors exclusive access to
elected officials at the conventions. The greater the donation, the
greater the access to advertising opportunities and influential
convention attendees. In his talking points for meeting with potential
corporate donors, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty from Minnesota
offered corporations the chance to “connect with influential government
officials (Cabinet, President, next President)” [New York Times, June 7, 2008].
An added bonus for donors: corporate donations to the host committee
are tax deductible, meaning that, ultimately, it is taxpayers who
subsidize corporate privilege at the conventions.
The CFI report
documents that “Presidential” donors who give $1 million to the DNC
Convention receive VIP access to the Pepsi Center convention hall and
all Host Committee-sponsored events, numerous advertising
opportunities, and the opportunity to attend private events with
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, and other
party officials. As advertised in brochures given to potential donors,
corporate donors to the GOP Convention receive similar perks for a $5
To ensure that voters’ voices are not drowned out by big-money
interests, it is crucial that Congress act to prevent unlimited
soft-money donations to convention host committees and to ensure public
financing for elections.
Take Action! Tell your members of Congress to comply with existing ethics laws at the conventions.