When it comes to election financing, the rules are actually much simpler than many would have you believe. They’re not all good rules, and some of the good ones aren’t all that effective, but the basics are pretty easy to follow: Individuals can give X amount to a candidate, up to as many candidates as they want to give it to, but not more than the maximum amount for each one. Groups are about the same. Politicians can’t coordinate with groups to make more money.
Sure, you can go down the road of PACs versus Super PACS and Citizens United and Open Secrets and Big Pharma, but the bottom line is, the rules are all written down somewhere, everyone has access to them, and breaking them is illegal.
That’s why it’s so crazy to find out that the outgoing Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, broke campaign finance laws.
It’s one thing to shake hands with some bigwigs and ask them to contribute to your campaign — hell, our entire campaign finance system is built on that, and you can’t even get elected to Congress unless you’re able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, every time there’s another election.
But it’s another thing entirely to go meet with a billionaire and figure out a way to ask for money you can’t ask for from a guy who technically can’t give it to you.
That’s exactly what happened last week when Ryan flew to Las Vegas to gamble on not getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Unfortunately, he’s still got the crumbs on his face. The Speaker met with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson — you remember him as the guy who wasted $92 million on losing candidates in 2012 — to beg for money for the Congressional Leadership Fund.
The problem is, as an elected official, Paul Ryan isn’t allowed to ask for the kind of money that a billionaire like Adelson wants to contribute to Republicans. But that didn’t stop the Wisconsin Republican. According to Politico, Rep. Ryan found an ingenious way to get around those pesky federal laws:
As a federally elected official, Ryan is not permitted to solicit seven-figure political donations. When Ryan (R-Wis.) left the room, [former Senator Norm] Coleman made the ask and secured the $30 million contribution.”
See? It’s easy! You walk just outside the door while the money’s being asked for, and technically, you didn’t do the asking! Never mind the fact that it’s your name on all the travel documents, and you personally that the donor wanted to see before giving their money… to someone else.
This is disgusting, and — once again — not legal. Keep that in mind when you consider your vote in November, because one hundred percent of the thirty million dollars that Adelson signed over to totally-not-Paul-Ryan is going to Republicans.