Here’s how politicians play fat-cat donors for fools


Several decades ago, I became casually acquainted with an elderly — and wealthy — gentleman who was a sucker for Republican appeals to his vanity. (Undoubtedly, there are Democratic examples of the exact same thing, but this guy, who is now deceased, was a Republican.)

He actually believed the come-ons he received from GOP fundraisers who made him feel that his money would buy him insider status in the party’s highest councils. Accordingly, he readily coughed up more and more coin of the realm to gain admission to supposedly special groups of so-called party insiders.  This status got him invited to functions where he actually got to meet movers and shakers and actually got to shake hands with high-ranking government officials. He truly loved this sense of self-importance, even though it was all a big crock.

I tried once to tell him he was being had, but he wouldn’t hear it — perhaps because he knew I was liberal Democrat.

All of this came to mind when I read THIS PIECE by Blake Zeff this morning:

[Wealthy] donors are given outrageous — though, usually, completely superficial — promises, in return for their largesse. For example, a “high dollar” campaign fundraising event will be billed as a chance to hear the “real inside scoop” of what’s going on in the campaign. So, candidates are often admonished by their fundraising staff not to give their usual stump speech, because these donors expect more. It’s the same reason big money folks are invited to take part in “strategy” calls with campaign staff, who run them through the latest polling (most of it publicly available) and offer optimistic assessments and broad strokes about the strategy moving forward.

Which means that when a candidate attends a fundraising event hosted by a top donor, he or she usually deviates from the stump speech, talks politics, speaks casually, and tries to give the attendees the feeling they’re in on some insider campaign scoops…

Mind you, big money often does, in fact, buy big influence in politics. But for every fat-cat donor whose money purchases actual political power, there are many more whose counsel is only part of a charade. Their money only buys them fake deference from their political beneficiaries.


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