POLITICS

The Democrats' hypocrisy on big-money donors

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President Obama once again went after Republican donors this week, claiming they pose a threat to democracy itself. It was only a slightly more fevered than his party's standard -- and false -- line that the GOP is uniquely fueled by special interest money.

Obama has even rolled out his populist rhetoric at fundraising events, which typically carry a price tag of $30,400 for the DNC, the legal maximum. As you might guess, the attendees are hardly salt-of-the-earth teachers and firemen.

Check the attendee lists of these fundraisers, and the DNC donor rolls, and it becomes tough to swallow the Democratic battle cry that the party is battling wealthy financiers and special interests.

Obama likes to pretend he's running against greedy financial-industry millionaires, but look down the list of top donors in September, and you'll see partners and managers of hedge funds and private equity firms like Grosvenor Capital Management, Saturn Asset Management, and Chicago's Delaware Street Capital all giving the DNC the maximum. Other hedge-fund donors who give the max come from Bain Capital and the Tudor Investment Corporation.

Obama famously rejects lobbyist cash, but he defines lobbyist pretty narrowly -- only currently registered federal lobbyists are banned. That means state lobbyists are allowed to make donations, as are lobbyists who choose not to register, as well as lobbyists' wives.

For instance, Google Vice President Vint Cerf gave the max to the DNC this year. Part of his job is to petition government officials in an attempt to influence policy to Google's advantage. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we've read his e-mails to White House deputy tech policy director Andrew McLaughlin; they read a lot like lobbying contacts. But Cerf isn't a registered lobbyist, and he doesn't call himself a lobbyist. He calls himself an "evangelist" instead.

Oil and energy executives are another favorite bogeyman in Democratic rhetoric about Republican donors, but again the president is chucking stones from the steps of a glass house. Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, gave $30,400 to the DNC in April. Rogers has led his company's lobbying effort for the same cap-and-trade climate-change legislation that Obama supports.

When you look at the parties' total fundraising, the Democrats' pauper talk becomes laughable. Democrats have outraised Republicans $664 million to $441 million -- a 50 percent advantage -- according to data at the Center for Responsive Politics.

Each of the three Democratic fundraising committees -- the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- have outraised their Republican counterparts.

This is the sort of inconvenient truth that may be behind Democratic caveats, such as the subject line on a recent DNC fundraising e-mail, "Our donations are different."

Setting aside the hedge fund managers, the corporate lobbyists, and the energy executives, the DNC has a point here -- their donations are different.

Take San Francisco abortion-clinic surgeon Edward Lichtenberg, who has given more than $50,000 to the DNC since Obama came to office -- there probably aren't many RNC donors like him.

Then there are the likes of comedian Eddie Izzard and designer Oscar de la Renta -- $30,000 and $20,000 donors to the DNC, respectively. The Republicans have no counterparts.

Same with Elon Musk, who founded electric-car maker Tesla, which benefits from a slew of Obama-created subsidies plus a loan from Obama's Energy Department. Musk also a max donor to the DNC this year.

Another deflection attempt by Democrats is to point to outside-group spending. This line of rhetoric deserves a response, too.

First, Barack Obama knows about outside spending by special interests: In 2008, the Service Employees International Union spent $27 million in independent expenditures to help Obama, while the United Auto Workers shelled out $4.9 million.

And this election, outside groups are spending big to save the Democratic majority, too. Jon Ward at the Daily Caller reported that three big labor unions will spend about $145 million to help Democrats this year, while EMILY's List and MoveOn.org plan to spend about $75 million.

Those expenditures bring pro-Democratic outside spending within striking distance of pro-Republican outside spending. Throw in the edge the official Democratic committees enjoy over the GOP committees, and you've got parity.

Turns out both parties are raising or benefiting from many millions of dollars from special interests and the wealthy. Democrats' poverty, it turns out, is mostly in poll numbers.

Timothy P.Carney, The Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Monday and Thursday, and his stories and blog posts appear on ExaminerPolitics.com.

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