The New York Times reports that a simple coding error within the sophisticated technological underbelly of the Republican Governors Association has revealed sensitive financial information which was meant to be kept from the prying eyes of Regular Joes such as you and I. Not only has the curtain been drawn back to show the corporate donors, but also the total amount that they had stuffed into the pockets of the RGA.
Boy, someone really screwed the pooch on that one!
The resulting aftermath has opened the floodgates for an online search war mainly between the association itself and a Washington watchdog group which has leaked other documents, Republican and Democratic alike. The Republicans have had a hay day removing many such documents from their sites, trying to conceal the fact that since 2008, many of the nation’s biggest companies, from Aetna to Walmart, have poured millions of dollars into Republican governors’ campaigns.
Yes, I see it now: Two men in trench coats in the shadows of a darkened alley. One a ‘respectable’ representative of a popular and well-liked corporation, the other your friendly neighborhood Republican official. They pass each other without stopping, the swap of the cash-filled briefcase flawless as they never interrupt their stride. The barest tip of the hat speaks volumes of understanding as they go their separate ways into the night.
Hooray for America!
But there is an unmasked vigilante in our midst. The bloodhounds of the Democratic group CREW, or the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, have sniffed out such documentation, shining a light on this secretive world of 501(c)(4) political groups. The offices of governors has become quite the commodity due to the lack of legislation produced by Congress, and the tax-exempt Republican Governors Public Policy Committee is free from the restraints of the RGA, giving them freedom from disclosure.
Gail Gitcho, the spokeswoman for the governors association, denies all claims of the organization giving the names of the donors to their exempted arm, denouncing CREW as a group of hypocritical partisans refusing to reveal their own donors while exposing those of others.
In retaliation, the Republican association produced documentation from the Democratic Governors Association which also name corporate donors and benefit specifics, but lack specific donation amounts as well as the specific names of the corporate members of the Center for Innovative Policy, the Democratic association’s own secret 501(c)(4).
You’re going to tell on me? Nuh uh! I’m telling on you!
But the documents revealed by CREW are more detailed and thus hold a greater weight, especially when that information is so damning. Among the documents is a 21-page schedule uncovering the companies, their representatives, and their contributions in the policy committee’s Carlsbad meeting last year.
So what are these companies buying? Let’s have a look-see.
Well, documentation shows that as of February 1, 2008, for a small one time donation of $100,000, or just $50,000 a year, you gain the ability to help support the Republican party with bringing your specific expertise to the political process. These board members also receive tickets to “an exclusive breakfast with the Republican Governors and members of their staff”, tickets to the Governors Forums Series meeting with a group of 5-8 governors discussing the best policy practices from around the country on a given topic, and an invitation to the D.C. Discussion Breakfast Series, as well as multiple other events.
That’s all well and good, but what about those “executive” members? They’ve got that covered too!
With a measly one time payment of $200,000, or $100,000 annually, you get bumped up to Cabinet Membership, where you receive all of the above amenities as well as two invitations to an exclusive Gubernatorial Dinner, an intimate gathering with the Republican Governors and Republican V.I.P. guests at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.
Is this legal? No. Does it happen regularly? Yes.
It’s not that you don’t suspect this, but here you see these companies paying the governors for access. Americans all think it’s pay-to-play politics. This is what confirms it. – Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW
This behavior is just not right. Companies should not be able to cut a paycheck and influence governmental operations. The fact of the matter is that it is not likely to stop anytime soon, in fact it will most likely get worse, but with this effort to remove the secrecy and underhandedness of the G.O.P. a small ray of hope shines through the gloom and we can hold to the prospect of one day having a less corrupt government. But I’ll believe it when I see it.
The Republican Governor’s Association took down some of the incriminating documents but this