Why are Corporations in the Business of Funding Our National Conventions?

Jul 14, 2016
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New Report from the Campaign Legal Center Explains How, Despite Corporate Spending Ban, Conventions Are Corporate-Backed Affairs

WASHINGTON – This presidential election, corporations have threatened to pull financial support for the national conventions because they do not want to be associated with the views of presidential candidate Donald Trump. But given the longstanding federal ban on corporate support for nominating conventions, why are corporations in the business of paying for our political conventions at all?

That’s the subject of the Campaign Legal Center’s new report, Funding the Presidential Nominating Conventions: How a Trickle of Private Money Turned into a Flood, released today.

“The role of corporate money has become so obscene that in the 2016 election, a corporation not financially supporting political conventions is apparently a newsworthy case of ‘man bites dog,’” said Larry Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and co-author of the report. “Over the years, the Federal Election Commission has shredded the laws that explicitly ban corporate spending on conventions. Now, corporate interests and wealthy individuals gain political access and influence over government officials by spending tens of millions of dollars to fund nominating conventions. The public is rightfully discouraged and disgusted by how they are being shut out of their democracy. Public funding of the conventions was the right idea that was undermined by the FEC and eventually Congress.”

CLC’s report outlines how, over the years, the FEC has allowed corporations to funnel an increasing amount of money to the party conventions through “host committees,” which are supposed to promote the city and local commerce, not fund the conventions. This year, both parties expect to raise at least $60 million each for their “host committees,” largely from corporate sources, and to spend that money on the conventions. 

 “Because the conventions are a political party’s single largest public gathering of local, state and federal elected officials and party leaders, the conventions are stocked ponds for corporate interests fishing for influence at every level of government,” said Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and co-author of the report. “Yet the FEC has continued to insist that corporations donate to conventions for commercial rather than political reasons, despite all evidence to the contrary.” 

CLC’s report highlights:

  • How the corrupting potential of corporate spending on the conventions led Congress to ban it and create the post-Watergate public financing system in the 1970s 
  • How the FEC began to chip away at laws prohibiting corporate and private funding of the conventions by opening “host committee” loopholes
  • How corporations engage in “relationship building” at the conventions
  • How the biggest convention sponsors are often those companies with pressing issues before the federal government. 

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