Several years ago, the Washington Examiner published a special report whose title posed this question: Who controls the Democratic Party? The answer developed in the six-part series was summarized this way:
“Class-action trial lawyers, Big Labor union leaders, Big Green environmentalists, and Big Insiders with billions of dollars in personal wealth and foundation grants — together essentially dictate what Democrats can and cannot support on many key public policy issues. Call them the Four Horsemen of the coming Democratic apocalypse.
|Most Democrats are prisoners of a narrow special-interest agenda of constantly growing government budgets, regulation and taxing.|
“These four groups provide most of the campaign funding and workers, political and policy expertise, legal and regulatory muscle, and strategic communications for the Democratic Party. Consequently, most Democrats are prisoners of a narrow agenda of constantly growing government budgets, regulation and taxing.”
Not much has changed since that series appeared in 2011. President Obama is still in the White House. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid still has a chokehold on the legislative process. And House Republicans still only control one-half of one-third of the federal government.
Just how little has changed was brought home recently by a report from the Center for Responsive Politics, the foundation that first changed American politics for the better in 1996 by posting campaign donations online at OpenSecrets.org.
Thus far in the 2014 campaign, 16 of the top 20 contributors overall represent the dominant special interests in the Democratic Party. Three of the top 20 contribute mostly to Republicans and conservative groups. One maintains a surgically even division between candidates of both parties.
The same pattern is seen when the focus of 2014 campaign contributions zeroes in on super PACs, which sprang up in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. These groups can give as much money as they wish to whomever they choose. Twelve of the top 20 Super PACs – including the seven most generous – support liberal Democratic candidates and groups. Seven of the remaining eight support conservative Republican candidates and groups, and one is scrupulously evenhanded.
The same dozen dominate the top 20 when the focus is on contributions of outside money to federal candidates. As for contributions by 527 PACs, which represent unlimited spending on activities such as voter registration drives, 15 of the top 20 represent the Democrat’s four dominant special interests.
To put these data points in the context of dollars and cents, the top seven contributors overall gave more than $100 million to liberal Democratic candidates and groups. The top three that donated to conservative Republican candidates and groups gave slightly more than $14 million. That's nearly a 10-to-1 funding advantage for liberal Democratic candidates and groups from among the most generous contributors. It is no exaggeration to say the Democratic Party has become the party of four extremely rich special interests.
It is impossible to calculate the “dark money” contributions of anonymous donors to independent expenditure and nonprofit activist groups. But consider this: Since 1999, the Tides Foundation has channeled more than $1 billion in dark money to liberal, special-interest nonprofit groups. Conservatives have nothing remotely comparable to Tides.