Follow the Money, Honey

“Follow the money, honey.” It’s an adage I learned from someone much smarter than me a long time ago. If you really want to know what a politician will do if elected, find out where he or she is getting their money. If you want to know what an organization is about, find out from where their funding comes. Follow the money and you’ll learn more about a person or entity than you can imagine.

In an effort to provide a public service, this post is about political action committees, or PAC’s. Is this public service necessary? If you would like to understand the parameters regarding free and fair elections, it is not only necessary, but critical, that you understand how much good, or damage, a PAC can do. Sadly, it is the damage caused by PAC’s that has led me to write this.

PAC’s are formed by groups of people who share similar political interests. For example, labor unions have PAC’s that are funded by members of that union. Political organizations will often form PAC’s so that they can give an increased amount of money to particular candidates. Sometimes, groups of like-minded voters will pool their funding in order to form a political action committee. Federal law allows a PAC to donate up to $5,000 to a candidate’s election committee, and up to $15,000 to a national committee. This can prove very helpful to candidates since individuals in some states are limited to donating less than $1,500 to a candidate’s election committee.

So, you have a group of golf buddies who want to get John Doe elected to the county commission. You pool your money together, come up with $5000, and donate it to the Elect John to the Commission Committee. It’s all legal, right? Not so fast. You still have a matter that needs immediate attention. You are required by federal election law to register with your state! This is not a suggestion, but a law. Until you complete this registration (which is not difficult), you cannot donate a penny of that money.

Once you are registered, you will have to continue to comply with federal election laws. Any candidate worth electing will familiarize himself with these laws within moments after filing to run for office. He will make certain that his campaign treasurer is well aware of these laws, too, and not accept donations that are illegal.

Last year, I personally watched an illegal PAC, which had not registered, defeat twelve excellent candidates across my state. This PAC began operating with the donations of only a few voters. They sent mail pieces for the opponents of twenty-three candidates in an effort to keep good candidates from being elected. When this PAC was challenged, they registered with the state the day before their hearing. Of course, the damage had been done by then.

When you receive political mail pieces, look down at the fine print and find out who paid for it. Every political mail piece is required to have the statement “Paid for by…” followed by the name of the organization that funded it. Do a quick Google search to find out who the treasurer is and who funds the PAC. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Why does this matter to you, the voter? Our nation has campaign finance laws so that elections cannot simply be bought. It is incumbent upon the voter, however, to investigate the candidates they are considering in an election. Not only must you know where they stand on issues important to you, you also need to know who is funding them. Every candidate must submit financial statements every quarter of the election process, and more frequent reports close to Election Day. These statements are a matter of public record and you can view them to see who is donating to a campaign.

Does this really matter? Well, if you are planning to vote for a candidate, and then learn that most of the money for his campaign has been donated by people or PAC’s with nefarious interests, you should probably ask yourself how he will vote on issues that matter to those contributors once elected. If I learn that a candidate has received substantial funding from a PAC that supports abortion, Common Core, or illegal immigration, he or she will not be receiving my vote.

Follow the money, voter.

~Temerity Dowell

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