For the moment, consider me as two-term Sen. Denny. (I’ll wait a moment until the laughter subsides.) It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that I am, in essence, more a professional fundraiser than a politician. I need money to remain in office â€” and I need money to acquire influence while in office in case I should seek higher office.
Giving money to other politicians binds them to you. It represents not-so-subtle I.O.U.’s to be collected if, for example, I decide to run for president.
So I establish a “leadership political action committee.” Call it DocPAC. My fellow members of Congress have them, y’know, and so do a lot of other politically savvy folks. We raise money through these leadership PACs independent of our regular campaign committees. And here’s what makes them politically useful: I can give up to $5,000 per election to any federal candidate. And believe me, those party hacks, er, loyalists, immediately become my pals.
Here’s what my old friend, former Louisiana Sen. John Breaux, did with his leadership PAC. Another chum, Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, has disbursed more than 530 checks worth $5,000 each to House incumbents and GOP House candidates. That’s more than $2.6 million of largesse spread among the faithful from his leadership PAC since 1997.
I can also give my pals money from my campaign war chest, too. In both cases, people donating money to me might not know that their contributions might actually end up in someone else’s pocket.
So I begin quietly slipping cash to my party’s candidates, too, during my terms as your senator. Then I decide to run for president. I’ve been larding up my political friends for years now through DocPAC. I’ve got lots of friends (meaning walking I.O.U.’s) among senators and representatives in Congress, state and national Democratic committee men and women, and governors and other elected officials. And many just happen to be superdelegates.
You see, I’m in a tight race. (Did I mention I’m a Democrat?) Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama and I have divvied up fairly evenly the lion’s share of delegates selected through state caucuses and primaries. That leaves 796 of these superdelegates who can pick any which one of us they damn well please to nominate.
Sadly, my DocPAC efforts are no match for Sen. Clinton’s HILLPAC and Sen. Obama’s PAC, Hope Fund. Sen. Clinton passed out $1,150,000 to federal candidates since 2002 through her PAC; Sen. Obama, about $895,000 since 2005. But who got the money is of great interest because the delegate counts are so close.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Sens. Obama and Clinton have given $904,200 in campaign contributions over the last three years to Democratic superdelegates (here’s a chart telling who got how much):
Obama, who narrowly leads in the count of pledged, “non-super” delegates, has doled out more than $698,200 to superdelegates from his political action committee, Hope Fund, or campaign committee since 2005. Of the 82 elected officials who had announced as of Feb. 12 that their superdelegate votes would go to the Illinois senator, 35, or 43 percent of this group, have received campaign contributions from him in the 2006 or 2008 election cycles, totaling $232,200. In addition, Obama has been endorsed by 52 superdelegates who haven’t held elected office recently and, therefore, didn’t receive campaign contributions from him.
Clinton does not appear to have been as openhanded. Her PAC, HILLPAC, and campaign committee appear to have distributed $205,500 to superdelegates. Only 12 percent of her elected superdelegates, or 13 of 109 who have said they will back her, have received campaign contributions, totaling about $95,000 since 2005. An additional 128 unelected superdelegates support Clinton, according to a blog tracking superdelegates and their endorsements, 2008 Democratic Convention Watch.
Sadly, DocPAC doesn’t have that kind of financial strength. And as the Associated Press reports today, superdelegates are flocking to Sen. Obama. I may have to rethink my campaign. (I’ll call Mike Huckabee for advice.)
I suppose I ought to take heed of the media’s go-to guy for quotes on presidential politics, Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia:
Only the limits of human creativity could restrict the ways in which Obama and Clinton will try to be helpful to superdelegates. My guess is that if the nomination actually depends on superdelegates, the unwritten rule may be, ‘ask and ye shall receive.’
Compared with the lard- and largesse-dispensing machines of Sens. Clinton and Obama, DocPAC just can’t pony up enough dollars to sweeten the attitudes of superdelegates.
Sadly, Sen. Denny is suspending his campaign for president.
(But wait! I’m a superdelegate, too! Hmmm … I wonder how much I can get for my convention vote.)