One of Missouri’s wealthiest citizens just dumped a quarter of a million dollars into the effort to keep Mike Parson in the governor’s mansion until 2024.
That’s in addition to the $1 million retired multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield previously donated to Parson’s bid for a full four-year term as governor. Parson took over as governor in June 2018 for Eric Greitens after the Navy Seal crashed and burned amid various scandals.
How is that even possible with federal and state campaign contribution limits in place that one individual can donate a staggering $1.25 million to a political candidate? If you have to ask that question, you aren’t up to speed on how most major campaigns are financed today.
Sinquefield didn’t give the hefty donations directly to Parson’s campaign. Instead, he gave the largess to Uniting Missouri PAC, which is backing Parson. He did an end-run.
Politicians brag about all the “small” donations they receive from individuals. But the money that pays the freight for most political campaigns these days comes from big donors, not the little ones. Donors like Sinquefield. And large corporations. And labor unions. And special interest groups.
And increasingly, that big money is funneled to candidates through political action committees, or PACs. For all the righteous happy talk about taking mega-donors out of the campaign financing equation, it’s still the super rich and corporate interests who are fueling modern political campaigns.
They just aren’t using the old-fashioned method of donating directly to a candidate’s campaign because of the hard contribution limits. It’s absurd. And perfectly legal.
Subject to certain conditions, PACs can raise and spend unlimited campaign contributions from donors and, depending on how they are set up, can keep their donors anonymous. They come in all shapes and sizes. They have been proliferating ever since states and the federal government tried to rein in big donations by passing campaign finance reform laws.
Legally, PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate campaign activities directly with a candidate, but in practice they sure seem to work effortlessly with political campaigns.
Missouri voters overwhelmingly support campaign finance limits. They have demonstrated that time and time again in election after election. Nevertheless, courts have overturned many of the restrictions — some on First Amendment grounds.
That has done nothing to cure the public’s cynicism about the influence of the rich and special interest in politics. In fact, it deepens the cynicism.
Especially when a mega-donor like Sinquefield gives over a million dollars to help a farmer from Bolivar who is regarded as a “regular Joe,” down to earth and a straight-shooter win an election.
We get it’s legal. We appreciate it’s the way campaigns are financed today. We don’t doubt for a minute that Sinquefield and Parson share the same policy positions on any number of issues. But over a million dollars in campaign contributions?
It just doesn’t feel right.