Thursday, August 11, 2011


I spent a fair amount of time yesterday nosing around the Open Secrets web site. This organization keeps track of the role of money in politics and presents articles detailing what their investigations have discovered. As you can imagine, it's a very educational site, even for those of us who thought we knew all about the subject.

For example, this article introduced me to a layer of campaign financing of which I was totally unaware: leadership PACs.

Leadership PACs are committees affiliated with individual politicians, but the money they raise cannot be used for that politician's own campaign costs. Instead, they are typically used to distribute money to colleagues, often by those interested in attaining leadership positions within the party.

Politicians of both parties engage in this practice, raising money from their sources and then spreading that money around to candidates as a sort of favor which at some point hopefully will be repaid. It's especially helpful if the politician with the leadership PAC intends to run for office in the next election.

To illustrate the principle, Open Secrets takes a look at the leadership PACs of the current declared and potential candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. I was surprised by the kind of money which got thrown around by these people during the 2010 cycle. The big money guy in that race, Mitt Romney was particularly active.

Seven other Republicans who are pursuing their party's presidential nomination also have leadership PACs. Only former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who spent the bulk of the 2010 election cycle serving as the U.S. ambassador to China, does not have a leadership PAC.

Former governors Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin, along with Romney, have made far more donations in support of their political brethren than the other GOP presidential candidates, though Romney beat out all of his rivals. ...

The race to find -- and fund -- possible Republican allies, who may provide pivotal endorsements or assistance during the presidential primaries, has been going on for years.

(Of course, it has also been going on with Democrats as well, it's just that no one has yet to emerge who will challenge the president in the current cycle, which is what this article is exploring.)

The article is awash with charts and graphs and detailed information which shows just how extensive this particular part of the campaign funding equation is, and it's staggering. Fortunately, the Federal Election Commission requires monthly and quarterly reports from those with leadership PACs, so that saints like Open Secrets can provide us with the reminder of just how our electoral process is greased by the huge amounts of money involved.

I urge you to visit the site and to read the linked article. It's a stunner.

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