Sunday’s article calls for the end of corporate campaign
The hundreds of mysterious $1,000
donations to local politicians that have caused such stir over the last two
weeks are, as The Sun News has reported, both legal and commonplace in
And, frankly, a little repulsive.
Inherent in campaign finance is a tension between enabling free speech and preventing corruption. Contributions are widely viewed as constitutionally protected political speech, but also as having the potential to give donors undue influence over politicians (some might use the word "bribe"). In the United States, that tension is partly resolved by laws that limit the amount of money one donor can give (i.e., the $1,000 maximum in local races) and laws that require disclosure of the donors - on the premise that if an official's donors are known, the public can watch his behavior toward them.
So, at the very least, these shell
corporations that passed upward of $300,000 around
Worse yet, the corporations may be allowing some donors to skirt campaign-finance maximums, but again, the public has little ability to find out. Theoretically, Donor A and Donor X could form multiple corporations and hand out lots of money, with the public none the wiser. This, too, seems at least plausible in this case.
The most vocal critics of those
Myrtle Beach City Council incumbents (Mayor John Rhodes and councilmen Wayne
Gray, Chuck Martino and Randal Wallace) who received $24,000 each have
suggested that the money is a form of kickback for the tourism marketing tax.
That may be a bit of overinterpretation - both the ad tax and the rally
restrictions had significant support from the
And that secrecy brings us back to
the larger point.
This issue is not without a solution. The federal government and at least 20 individual states (including North Carolina) all prohibit campaign contributions directly from corporations (they may create "political action committees," but there are strict limits on who may donate into those, and of course, require full disclosure of those donors). We would like to call on our local legislative delegation to support such a change, but at least seven state legislators (Sen. Ray Cleary and Reps. Thad Viers, George Hearn, Alan Clemmons, Nelson Hardwick, Tracy Edge and, to a lesser degree, Liston Barfield) all received the same money.
Our situation in Myrtle Beach is
probably beyond repair in this election cycle, except at the ballot box -
voters who already feel insulted by the City Council's arrogance in its recent
decisions are likely to frown further upon such lavish spending in the middle
of a recession. In the meantime, with corporate spending such a popular sport
at the state level, we probably won't hold our breath waiting for change from