Most of us believe that money plays a huge negative role in American politics. Wealthy individuals, organizations, and lobbying groups give huge sums to politicians and those politicians then act in ways that benefit their donors either directly or indirectly. Of course, both parties vehemently deny that there is a quid pro quo, arguing that donors merely contribute to those elected officials and candidates who already agree with them. Some studies have seemed to provide support for this position.
Yet those who deny the existence of the quid pro quo go to great lengths to hide the donations under various front groups and vehemently oppose efforts to limit the amounts of money that can be donated. And there is no doubt that money at the very least provides access. If you are a big contributor you will get your calls answered and can easily get to meet with a candidate and their senior staff and discuss issues important to you. Having the ear of a politician goes a long way towards getting what you want. If you are merely an ordinary voters the chances are pretty much zero. The best you can hope for is a form letter.
In this context, Zaid Jilani reports on an interesting tactic adopted by a group opposing the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court that puts this idea to the test. Defeating his nomination requires some Republican senators to vote against him. Two of the targeted ones are Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both of whom say they support the rights of a woman to choose but in practice do little to protect that right.
Progressive activist Ady Barkan, who has the impairing condition of Lou Gehrig’s disease, spent the last five months crisscrossing the United States to campaign against Republicans who supported the tax law. He’s now pursuing an innovative tactic for pressuring Collins to vote “no” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
His “Be A Hero” campaign has a simple message for the senator. Barkan will raise as much money as he can for Collins’s 2020 Democratic opponent. If Collins chooses to vote “no” on Kavanuagh’s confirmation, he will give it all back.
“Basically what we’re saying is, this money will be sitting there waiting for the challenger, but if she announces a position on Kavanaugh and helps kill the nomination, we will refund the money,” he told The Intercept. “So we’re trying to create good incentives for her and provide Democrats in blue states all over the country with a concrete way they can put pressure on her.”
I don’t think this tactic will work though. The reason the normal quid pro quo works is because it is covered by a veil. A naked one like this would be too much to stomach. In fact, it may backfire in that it may force Collins to vote in favor of Kavanaugh just to show she cannot be bought. What I expect her to do is to say that in her meetings with Kavanaugh she felt that he supported abortion rights and so she voted in his favor and then when he votes to undermine it, she will cry that she was misled.
Politicians know how to play these games.