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Inside Intelligence: About Those Campaign Finance Limits...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in Texas politics and government, we asked about campaign finance — specifically, about limits to contributions in federal and state races.

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With the U.S. Supreme Court hearing a case about individual contribution caps during political cycles, we asked the insiders this week about that and other campaign finance restrictions.

Unanimous, they are not.

While 54 percent said there should be a limit on the aggregate amount a donor can give during a two-year election cycle, 45 percent said there should not be. The standing federal limit on contributions from any individual donor to any particular federal candidate had more proponents, with 58 percent saying that should remain in place.

The insiders — keep in mind that these are people more likely to be on the giving side of campaign finance than on the getting side — favor limits on contributions to state candidates. There are no such limits now, but 57 percent said there ought to be.

And what about donations from virtual “persons” — corporations and unions? A slight majority — 53 percent — said they should be allowed to contribute directly to political campaigns.

The insiders commented along the way and a full set of their remarks is attached. Here is a sampling:


Should federal law limit the aggregate amount that one individual can contribute to federal candidates?

• "I'm a political consultant... hell NO!"

• "Limitations will (unfortunately) now benefit the emergence of dark money groups that will form as a result of such limitations. Better to have massive contributions reported and visible than the alternative."

• "The limit on the number of federal races to which I can contribute is a violation of my constitutional right to participate in the electoral process. Soon SCOTUS will educate everyone."

• "Disclose, disclose, disclose. Make it easy to see who is being bought and by whom!"

• "Super PAC's have fostered super secrets. Lift the limit and create more transparency."

• "Many of your insiders are the very people making and benefitting from these federal and state contributions. Reader beware."


Should federal law limit campaign contributions in presidential and congressional races?

• "No limits, immediate disclosure"

• "Every time Congress makes a show of limiting campaign contributions, the money shows up somewhere else. It's like squeezing a balloon."

• "Either that, or let only billionaires and large corporations decide the outcomes of federal races."

• "Disclosure of contributions is more important, and the bottom line is to assure confidence in the electoral process. Unlimited spending by undisclosed interests undermines that confidence."

• "The system is already in place and seems to work to limit the influence of any one donor."

• "Same answer as above. Ironically, federal campaign limits require presidential and congressional candidates to spend far too much time at fundraisers talking to folks who can write a $2K check and less time to get out and talk to actual people. In Texas, our statewide candidates don't spend an inordinate amount of time at big fundraisers because they don't need to."


Should the state limit contributions to political candidates?

• "Dewhurst has shown that money alone won't win races. Limiting contributions won't equalize the field--ideas and good old fashioned campaign work does that."

• "100% conflicted here: 1. I don't like limits on contributions, but 2. I don't like $500 floors to get in the door."

• "I like Texas law, in that you can give as much as you want. Maybe as a lobbyist I should say it should be limited to save money, but hey, money is speech. Darn First Amendment..."

• "As things stand today, we have legalized bribery."

• "What an absolutely crazy idea. What we have learned from the federal system -- from several decades of watching the federal system -- is that money will flow to both sides regardless of the rules that are put in place. Remember, PAC's were the result of post-Watergate reforms and every campaign finance reform since then has been a re-action to whatever workaround emerged from the prior reform. All these reforms do is make it harder to figure out who is giving the money to candidates, which is basically all we want to know."


Should corporations and unions be allowed to contribute to political campaigns?

• "Taxation without representation?"

• "As long as contributions are disclosed and out in the open, why set a limit? If a certain politician/candidate is in the pocket of one person/corporation/union or a small group of people/corps/unions, then the voters will take that into account"

• "Most of the corporations that will give are privately held, not the publicly traded types. Exxon won't give, but a car dealer will. Plus, how does it make sense to allow a LLC to contribute when a corporation can't? Answer: it doesn't."

• "Both corporations and unions or neither."

• "No to corporations. Yes to unions representing their members but limits."

• "Yes, unless you are a tax-exempt entity. If a corporation/union doesn't have to pay taxes, then it shouldn't get to spend money in campaigns. If it wants to get involved in political campaigns, than it should submit to the tax man like the rest of us!"

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Jenny Aghamalian, Victor Alcorta, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Jay Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Blaine Bull, David Cabrales, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, Janis Carter, Corbin Casteel, William Chapman, Elizabeth Christian, Elna Christopher, Chad Crow, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Holly DeShields, Richard Dyer, Jeff Eller, Jack Erskine, Gay Erwin, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Eric Glenn, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, Jim Grace, John Greytok, Jack Gullahorn, Clint Hackney, Anthony Haley, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Richard Hardy, Ken Hodges, Laura Huffman, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Tom Kleinworth, Dale Laine, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, Leslie Lemon, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Phillip Martin, Matt Matthews, Dan McClung, Mike McKinney, Debra Medina, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Keir Murray, Nelson Nease, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Todd Olsen, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Royce Poinsett, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Bill Ratliff, Brian Rawson, Karen Reagan, Tim Reeves, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Boyd Richie, Kim Ross, Grant Ruckel, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Steve Scurlock, Ben Sebree, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Tom Spilman, Jason Stanford, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Corbin Van Arsdale, Ware Wendell, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

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