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EDITORIAL: The best way to get money out of politics is to shrink government

Updated December 22, 2019 - 10:02 pm

Democrats frequently talk about the evils of money in politics. They’re less forthcoming about how “dark money” and corporate donations help their campaigns.

Consider Nevada Rep. Susie Lee, a Democrat. At a roundtable in August, Rep. Lee claimed that the pharmaceutical industry uses “dark money” donations to “control Congress.” Dark money refers to legal donations to organizations that don’t reveal donors. Rep. Lee bragged about voting in favor of the For the People Act earlier this year. On its surface, it would require greater disclosure of political donations. In reality, it’s an effort by progressives to out and shame those who oppose leftist orthodoxy.

You would think, then, that Ms. Lee would be vehemently opposed to any group using “dark money” to boost her re-election campaign. You would be wrong.

Before Rep. Lee announced how she was going to vote on impeachment, she placed a message on the media section of her website. “Voters in the Las Vegas media market need to know that Susie Lee is a local problem solver,” it read. It then listed off several of her talking points.

House Majority Forward is a “dark money” group aligned with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to Open Secrets. On Monday, it put out a new ad promoting Rep. Lee. “Susie Lee is a problem solver,” the ad said. It also echoed some of talking points listed on Rep. Lee’s website.

Ms. Lee may be a hypocrite on this issue, but she’s hardly alone.

Other Democrats make a big show about not accepting money from corporate PACs. Three Democrat Senate candidates, Sara Gideon in Maine, Mark Kelly in Arizona and John Hickenlooper in Colorado, have made that pledge, per Open Secrets. It sounds impressive, but it’s a commitment filled with loopholes.

Ms. Gideon is the speaker of the House in Maine. Her state-level PAC has taken money from corporations and corporate PACs. All three candidates have also accepted money from Democratic leadership PACs. A significant portion of those funds came from corporate PACs.

What people who complain about money in politics typically ignore is the obvious nexus between an aggressive administrative state and the number of people seeking to influence the process. If government couldn’t harm or help them, corporations, Big Labor and other special interests might be more likely to keep their money to themselves.

The actual solution is quite simple: If you want to reduce money’s role in the political process, reduce the size and scope of government. No hypocrisy necessary.

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