Convention Cash

A big loophole allows corporations to pour money into the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions in exchange for access to lawmakers. The Denver Post examines the scramble for money in the 2008 host cities, Denver and Minneapolis and finds discomfort among both those raising the money and those giving it about what is going on.

Awareness is growing of the negative public attitudes towards the mingling of money and enhanced access to public officials:

 

In the current climate of increased scrutiny over political contributions and campaign-finance reform, some of the corporations who normally donate the millions needed to bring off the national conventions are weary and wary.

[. . .]

After spending about 20 personal days fundraising in six cities outside Colorado, Mayor John Hickenlooper said he is finding the money hard to come by.

The companies he approaches, he said, "want to be perceived as good corporate citizens by decisionmakers. They are seen as quite the opposite. They're seen as trying to buy influence.

"The more it gets reported like that," the mayor said, "the harder it is to get sponsors."

If that's the case, they might consider nixing the parties and private meetings they arrange to reward donors, and let "good corporate citizen[ry]" shine through in an event that offers equal access to all attendees, regardless of material wealth. As Public Campaign's Nancy Watzman (a Denver resident) puts it:

"(Corporate donors) want goodwill to pass their agenda, which is fine, but you don't see the ranks of Colorado's uninsured having a lavish party at the aquarium. We need a level playing field."

Conventions ought not be yet another opportunity for public access to candidates to be restricted according to income level. This is, after all, the occasion when both major parties choose who will make their challenge for the White House. These conventions, rather than encouraging growing apathy towards candidates and elections in general among the vast majority of voters who can't be big donors to conventions or candidates by making them yet another vehicle of big money influence, should instead be about candidates and voters talking together about the direction and leadership of their party in the years to come.