‘Cromnibus’ Tries To Sneak Through Another Blow To Campaign Spending Limits
With less than two days to go before another government shutdown, last night House and Senate leadership unveiled compromise budget legislation nicknamed the “cromnibus” — a portmanteau of continuing resolution, or CR, and an omnibus spending bill. While the main flashpoint going into these negotiations was conservatives’ radical reaction to President Obama’s executive action on immigration, in the light of day, a number of other odious provisions threaten to derail the bill’s passage.
ThinkProgress has a good run-down of the cromnibus’ troubling last-minute additions: handouts to Wall Street, cuts to IRS enforcement, interference in D.C.’s new voter-approved marijuana legalization, and a cold shoulder to students, the homeless, and those in need of affordable housing.
But today’s focus is on how Congress tried to sneak through the removal of more campaign finance limits and hand more even more control of the political system to the wealthiest and corporations. On page 1,599 of the 1,603-page cromnibus, the last-minute provision dramatically increases the caps on donor contributions to the national political parties. Right now, the most any single person can donate to candidates, parties and federal PACs was $129,600 in a single year (already more than 2.5 times the nation’s median income). But in the current version of the cromnibus, a donor’s maximum contribution would shoot up all the way to $777,600, by raising the cap on donations to party conventions from $32,400 to $97,200. In addition, it allows the national party committees to establish separate accounts for buildings and separate accounts for recounts and legal fees. Add it all up and it means a new flood of money in politics from wealthy donors and corporation– indeed, it’s a crafty way to create a solution where a problem doesn’t exist.
While that provision is particularly noxious, Common Cause also reports that there’s an additional attack on transparency tucked away in the cromnibus. The bill blocks the President from requiring federal contractors to disclose their political donations. So not only could companies that deal directly with the federal government hide their donations in plain sight, their contributions to officeholders could jump dramatically.
BOTTOM LINE: This cromnibus is a canary in the coal mine for how Republicans plan to govern in 2015. It reflects their priorities to increase the influence of the wealthy while cutting transparency at the same time. It will take continued vigilance to make sure that people like incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who profess to be for the middle class, don’t get even more opportunities to take speech away from the average person and give it to those at the very top.
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