|Under the current campaign finance laws, there is no requirement that a campaign committee use all the money for the campaign. There can be all kinds of shenanigans with buying clothes or hair cuts (anyone remember the Wasilla Hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus?) but it is allowed with the idea that if the public does not like the way the candidate is spending the money, well they will not vote for them.
There is not even a House Ethics Committee rule against investing campaign funds in companies that your committee legislates about. Campaign funds are exempt from that kind of ethics oversight. It is perfectly fine, under current rules, for someone like Rep. Barton to sit on the Energy Committee and invest his campaign donations in energy sector stocks.
This is a little looked at and troubling aspect of campaign finance. It is bad enough that mega-corporations give large amounts of money (through personal and now, thanks to Citizens United, corporate donations) but there is also the very real chance that a Representative can then invest that money right back into the corporation until they run for office again. They can do so even if they will be writing laws that might affect that investment and that company!
It is a problem in another way as well. This provides a back channel way for them to pump up the price of their stock. By finding a corrupt Rep or Senator, funneling lots of dollars to them that will be used to buy stock in their company they will be able to make it look as though they are in far better shape than they really are.
The danger of having a Representative or Senator closely tied to any business sector is easy to see; when your job is representing the people of your district and making the best choices for national policy and law, you should not be overly influenced by any one group. This is the premise of campaign finance reform, that money has a corrosive affect on the decision making of politicians. Now with the Wild West style of campaign funding that is allowed and combined with the ability of campaigns to invest in the stock market with donations, there is an ever higher incentive for politicians to identify with the source of their funds instead of the source of their votes.
Let's be clear here, it may be considered okay by the House and Senate Ethics committees to invest donations, but that does not make it ethical. Even the giant corporate donations are given for the purpose of electing a candidate. If a campaign makes a profit from investing those funds then it is arguably a reasonable use for them. However all investment involves risk. It is risking those funds that should not be allowed.
Should it be fine for a candidate to take campaign donations down to the OTB (off track betting) shop and put it down on "Whose Your Daddy" to win? There is risk there, likewise there is a chance that the campaign would come out ahead in the end, so is it okay? I think that most of us and most voters would answer those questions with a great big "Hell No!". So why is it that campaign committees can take risks like that with donations?
We have a problem in this nation with the power of money. It is tied up with banks that generate wealth without really adding value to the nation in terms of goods or ideas. We have a system of campaign finance that allows individuals or groups with huge amounts of money more influence than the average people. These are problems we are going to struggle with, but to allow the money given to candidates to be plugged back into the very companies it comes from is a closed circle that we can not allow to stand.
For there to be even the beginnings of belief in the ethical rightness of our politicians (yeah, I know a lot of you think all politicians are unethical, well when you say that you are slamming my parents and family so I will say again, not all of them are unethical) then we have to break this circle. It is not too much to ask that campaigns live with the donations they get. They are allowed to collect unlimited amounts from any company that wants to give it, they can gather large personal donations and garner money from PAC's, there is no need for them to try to "make the money work".
If there is that desperate a need to grow their donations, the perhaps the politician should start looking to what they do and how it makes their constituents feel about donating to them. For my part I will not donate a thin dime to a candidate who is investing their donations. I will be calling Sen. Bennet, Sen. Udall and Rep. Pearlmutter today and asking if they are playing the market or the ponies with my donations. You might want to call your Representative and Senators and say the same.
The floor is yours.