Finley: Clinton can save herself from dark cash

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Hillary Clinton says big money is corrupting the political process and undermining democracy. She told us that again last week in her victory speech after winning four of five Democratic presidential primaries against an opponent who has turned his back on super PAC dollars.

She lauded Bernie Sanders and “his millions of supporters for challenging us to get unaccountable money out of our politics.” But she’s not quite ready to get those dark dollars out of her politics.

Despite railing against the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that protected unlimited donations to political action committees, she’s not leading by example. Clinton is one of the biggest Big Money candidates ever.

So far in the 2016 presidential cycle, she and the groups supporting her have raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars. Of that staggering amount, $76 million has come from the super PACs enabled by Citizens United. That’s roughly the same as the three remaining Republican candidates combined.

That begs the question: Why does Clinton feel she needs so much super PAC help when she’s running against a primary candidate who has eschewed them and is raising his dollars largely from individual donors, exactly the way she says the process should work?

Conditions may not change that much in the general election campaign. Donald Trump is largely self-funding his presidential bid; political action committees account for only about $2 million of his support.

So Clinton can’t claim she has to play the game because her opponents are. She’s the one setting the pace here. This would be the perfect time to take a stand against a campaign finance system skewed to those with fat checkbooks.

Clinton’s campaign is the model for how the super wealthy can buy a much louder voice in the political process than the other 99 percent of voters.

Donors to her and the committees backing her have picked up $7 million from George Soros, the mega-billionaire who largely funds the progressive movement and its anarchist offshoots. She got another $5 million from Haim and Sheryl Sabin, media investors and philanthropists. Wall Street mogul James Simons kicked in $3.5 million. Hollywood kings Jeffery Katzenberg and Stephen Spielberg are in for $1 million each. From just seven large donors the Clinton effort collected nearly $30 million.

That would fund both sides of a gubernatorial race in Michigan.

Clinton’s save-me-from-myself denunciation of Citizens United is reminiscent of billionaire Warren Buffet’s lament that his secretary pays a higher income tax rate than he does. Buffet could fix that in a heartbeat by laying off his tax attorneys, foregoing deductions and paying the top rate. He doesn’t need a change in the tax code to force him to pay what he considers his fair share.

And Clinton doesn’t need a reform of campaign finance laws to bring her campaign in line with its stated principles. All she has to do to keep money from corrupting the process is to stop taking the cash.

Nolan Finley’s “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.