The role of big donors was back on display this week as the Koch brothers hosted one of their semi-annual gatherings. Billionaires Charles and David Koch have been hosting meetings that bring together some of the biggest conservative donors in the country with some of the nation’s leading conservative politicians. This year the event is drawing the state’s attention because Rick Perry is attending.
I thought the meeting was especially interesting because I have been reading Bryan Burrough’s The Big Rich: The rise and fall of the greatest Texas oil fortunes. Part of what he documents is how the men who made billions off oil translated that into political power.
Perry’s staff and others have been defending the meetings saying that it’s completely legal and that both sides have similar meetings. That is true.
That does not keep me from worrying.
Here are the problems.
- The argument that “both sides” have these kinds of meetings does not mean that all sides do. Also, maybe a billionaire is not a typical liberal/conservative.
- These wealthy donors have interests that go beyond broad ideological concerns. The access they gain through their donations is used to seek very specific business or personal favors.
- Saying that something is not a violation of current campaign finance laws should lead you to ask as many questions about the law as the activity. The fact that what powerful political interests want to do is permitted may result more from the exercise of power in the past than the morality of what they are doing now. There is a difference between what is right and what is permitted by law.
Those of you that have some billionaires somewhere in America interested in you cause are finding a voice through meeting like this. The rest of us…