Perhaps, like mine, your inbox is being flooded with emails from Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Michelle Obama.
President Obama usually says “hey” or “Ann” or “So, Ann.” Biden says “Here’s the thing, Ann.” And Mrs. Obama (Michelle) says “Hi” or “Hi, Ann.”
Obama wants to thank me in person by telling me to enter a contest to travel to Austin, Texas, where, presumably, he will be waiting to meet me although we live just a couple of miles apart in Washington. I’m not sure why he wants to thank me. He doesn’t say.
But this is the amazing part. He only wants me to contribute $3 to be eligible for a free flight and hotel room in Texas and handshake.
Michelle is more practical. She wants me to give $10 to have a chance at this opportunity. Unlike regulated contests, however, my friends Barack, Michelle and Joe don’t tell me what the chances are of winning.
Obviously, political columnists may not participate in such giveaways, let alone contribute to politicians. So if the goal of the emails is to make me give money to Democrats, that email deluge is having no effect.
It’s the same thing from Republicans, although they want me to give more – much more. Hundreds of dollars. Thousands of dollars. Hundreds of millions of dollars. (I am on these email lists by mistake because somehow Republicans are not taking advantage of the personal information out there for free which might indicate that anything in that range is highly implausible.)
Messages from the president, vice president and first lady warn that because Obama’s name won’t be on the ballot in November, many Democrats may not be motivated to vote or give money. In that case, they note with alarm, Republicans will have enormous amounts of money to fund their candidates and take over the Senate. Joe in particular is worried that the Koch brothers, those astoundingly rich guys (think $1 billion) in Kansas who loathe Obama and everything he stands for, will control the outcome of the autumn election by giving conservative candidates millions of dollars.
On the other hand, Bill and Hillary Clinton helped raise between $2 billion and $3 billion for politics and their causes in the past two decades, according to The Wall Street Journal. Republicans worry that if Hilary runs for president in 2016 she’ll have a built-in money advantage. (The two Bush presidents raised $2.9 billion, so presumably if Jeb runs, they’d help.)
The 2012 presidential election cost $2 billion. It will cost much more in 2016.
This year the Supreme Court weighed in again on the perennial issue of campaign finance, a subject guaranteed to make eyes glaze over but which is incredibly important. The rulings are changing our country, helping to make Washington gridlock permanent.
The Court has ruled that just about anything goes when it comes to raising money for candidates. Them what has can give. Special interest groups may raise millions and hide the names of the donors.
Seven times the high court headed by Justice John Roberts has ruled by 5-4 votes to weaken laws designed to prevent the rich from controlling democracy. The court this year had an unusual number of unanimous decisions but not on campaign finance.
The latest decision struck down the cap on contributions a donor may give to federal candidates, causing a lot of people to worry that this opens the door to more corruption. Politicians definitely respond to the money that elects them.
Oddly, fewer Americans are checking that little box on their tax returns that gives $3 of the taxes they owe (not an additional $3) to help fund the presidential election. If candidates take it, their fundraising is restricted. But candidates know they can rake in more dollars by refusing to take pro-rated money from the public fund.
So, fellow voters, expect more political emails in your inbox. How about $3 giving you a chance to meet the president in his home state of Hawaii or $5,000 to watch House Speaker John Boehner play golf in Cincinnati?
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune. Readers may send her email at [email protected]