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Fat City: Whether It's L.A. Or Philly, Conventions Show Politics Feeding At The Corporate Trough
Published on Wednesday, August 16, 2000 in the Philadelphia Inquirer
Fat City:
Whether It's L.A. Or Philly, Conventions Show Politics Feeding At The Corporate Trough
Vice President Gore a few days ago likened the Republican convention in Philadelphia to "a masquerade ball for special interests."

OK, but what would that make the equally egregious display of corporate-subsidized conspicuous consumption the Democrats are holding in Los Angeles? A tinsel-trimmed bash for those masquerading as foes of the special interests?

Through June, the Democrats - the party styling itself as for "the people," not "the powerful" - had raised more than $118 million in "soft money" for the 2000 campaign. That's a mere $19 million short of the Republicans.

And it's a big pipeline from "the powerful" - which the Democrats intend to keep open until that fine day when they enact a ban on such unlimited giving by fat cats.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, no party wandering in the swamp of campaign finance can afford to unilaterally disarm. But does anyone remember that the general election for president is supposed to be funded totally by tax dollars? Instead, each campaign is benefiting from millions of dollars in TV advertising (much of it demagogic nastiness) that their parties buy with soft money.

It's the same with the shameless gobbling at corporate troughs that is the new point of political conventions. Each party gets a $13 million public subsidy to hold its national convention, plus goodies from the host city. Why isn't that enough?

Consider the agendas of some $1 million donors to each convention. Microsoft, for example, is trying to stop the Justice Department from breaking it in two. General Motors resists the idea of tough fuel-economy standards on its sports utility vehicles.

As long-time political reformer Fred Wertheimer puts it, modern conventions feature "nonstop fund-raising, nonstop parties to honor powerful political figures, nonstop influence buying and selling."

The gaudy "tributes" to powerful lawmakers are nauseating. At the Democratic convention, Phillip Morris Co. and the National Rifle Association helped pay for a Santa Monica Pier party for conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs. At the GOP event, telecom companies threw a lavish Mardi Gras party in Philadelphia for Rep. Billy Tauzin (R., La.), a contender to be the Commerce Committee's next chairman.

At least Republicans are being true to their anything-goes campaign finance platform plank. The Democrats, who vow to clean the swamp, are the worse hypocrites.

The spectacle led Sen. Russell Feingold (D., Wis.), co-author of a pending soft-money ban, to refer to these conventions as "the worst display of money and corruption in history."

If that's hyperbole, it's only slight. From here on in, let's make the parties pay for their own parties. Let that be one of the purposes to which we put this prosperity.

Copyright 2000 Philadelphia Newspapers


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