First lady Michelle Obama called on donors Thursday evening to cut the “biggest, fattest” checks to the Democratic Party, warning that a failure to assist financially in the upcoming midterm elections could result in the death of “Hope and Change.”
“[Y]es, there's too much money in politics. There's special interests that have too much influence. But they had all that money and all of that influence back in 2008 and 2012 - and we still won those elections,” the first lady said. “Nothing has changed.”
However, she warned, Democratic turnout for midterm elections has historically been low. This cannot happen this year, she added, stating that the GOP is intent on blocking President Obama's agenda.
“[W]e can’t afford to just sit back and hope for the best, and then be shocked when things don’t work out our way — we do that a lot,” she told roughly 100 attendees gathered at the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago.
“We need to be engaged right from the beginning. And that’s where all of you come in, because there is something that all of you can do right now, today, to make a difference, and that is to write a big, fat check. I kid you not. I’m going to be honest with you, that’s what we need you to do right now. We need you to write the biggest, fattest check that you can possibly write,” she added.
Michelle Obama spoke at the event, which cost between $500 and $10,000 per person and up to $20,000 per couple, for maybe 20 minutes.
The first lady’s fundraising plea is especially rich considering it comes at a time when Democratic lawmakers have complained often and loudly about the negative influences of money in politics.
And they have hit this talking point a lot since the Supreme Court ruled in its 2010 Citizens United decision that the federal government cannot restrict political contributions from unions and corporations, arguing that these contributions are protected under the First Amendment.
Here’s just a quick sample of how Democratic lawmakers have for the past few years hammered away at the issue of money in politics:
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: We need to "reduce the role of money in politics. Our founders did all that they did for democracy -- a government of the many not a government of the money."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.: “I've watched people being afraid to make a vote because they're afraid of how much money is going to be spent against them. How much time, effort and money they'll need to defend themselves. And that's a sad scenario.”
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky.: “The last thing Congress needs is more corporate and special-interest candidates who don't answer to the American people. Until we get big money out of politics, we will never be able to responsibly address the major issues facing American families.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: “[T]he flood of dark money into our nation's political system poses the greatest threat to our democracy that I have witnessed during my time in public service."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: “The unlimited flow of money will drown out the voices of Americans who can't afford to buy the protection of the 1st Amendment.”
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.: “You shouldn't have to be rich to make your voice count. Proud to lead push to amend Constitution to #GetMoneyOut & overturn #CitizensUnited.”
Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H.: “Amend the Constitution to #GetMoneyOut. We need to level the playing field and restore our democracy.”
But once you get past the hyperbole and hand-wringing, there’s a much more interesting story to be told.
Consider the following: Democratic-aligned political action committees have in recent years raised more cash than Republican PACs.
“[T]he largest Democratic-aligned super PACs had raised $82 million so far this election cycle, compared to just $47 million for the largest Republican-affiliated super PACs,” the Washington Examiner's David Drucker reported, citing the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, however, nonprofit groups that support GOP policies have solicited more donations than nonprofit groups that support left-leaning policies. In fact, Drucker added, nonprofit groups that support Republican policy positions “have had no problem raising money this cycle, and are in fact doing better than their Democratic counterparts.”
There’s a good reason for the difference between GOP PACs and supportive nonprofit groups: The GOP’s donors are trying to remain anonymous.
Super PACs are required under law to disclose their donors, while nonprofit 501(c)(4) organizations are not. So for a conservative who would rather avoid being targeted by a supposed “low-level IRS employee in Cincinnati,” donating to a nonprofit makes more sense than donating to a PAC.
Democratic super PACs have outraised their Republican counterparts by millions, a factor attributed in part to GOP donors’ fear of being targeted by the Internal Revenue Service — or “getting Koch’ed.” …
[T]his election cycle, two new challenges have chilled GOP super PACs’ effort to raise cash from wealthy individuals and corporate donors: anxiety that they could get slapped with an IRS audit and unease that donating could lead to public demonization.
The former concern has arisen in the wake of revelations that the IRS has targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny and leaked confidential information about their contributors. The latter is tied to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s relentless attacks on Charles and David Koch.
Let’s just cut to the chase: Democrats don’t have a problem with money in politics. They certainly don’t have a problem with donors writing them the “fattest” checks. The president has perfected the art of fundraising, and labor unions have long poured mountains of cash into Democratic campaigns.
Democrats merely hate the fact that certain nonprofit groups have made it more difficult to target conservative donors.
For Democrats, money in politics isn’t the problem. Being denied a comprehensive enemies list is.