The Democratic National Committee has long been criticized as being overtly biased toward the Clinton campaign, particularly Democratic Chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz. First there was the scheduling of debates when no one was watching and refusing more debates in what was universally viewed as a move to help Clinton. Then, when Clinton lost her lead in the polls, the DNC suddenly scheduled more debates at primetime hours. Now, with Sanders setting records for donations from ordinary voters, the media is reporting that the DNC rolled back restrictions introduced by presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees. While it is not clear when this was done, the relative secrecy about the change on such a major campaign issue is pretty shocking. The Washington Post broke the story today. The issue of such contributions was only addressed in one substantive question by the moderators last night in the PBS debate. Many were surprised that neither moderator asked Clinton whether she would release the transcripts of the speeches in light of growing demands to see what she told Wall Street and banking groups.
The Washington Post is reporting “the change in the rules, already apparent to leading Washington lobbyists, was quietly introduced at some point during the past couple of months.” Good government groups have denounced the change, which obviously contradicts everything that Clinton has been saying and Democrats have been saying about cleaning up campaign contribution rules and corporate influence. Yet, news organizations have reported that Clinton was in favor of the rule change.
Famous reform advocate Fred Wertheimer noted that, as the public is clearly resonating with Sanders’ call against such contributions and corporate influence, the DNC is moving in the opposite direct and appears “completely out of touch.”
The move, which was not disclosed until today despite months of this being an issue in the campaign, will obviously fuel those who the system is inherently dishonest and corrupt. The disconnect between what candidates and party officials are saying and what they are doing is astonishing. We still are not having a substantive discussion of the constitutional issues over political speech after Citizens United. Many free speech advocates supported the decision due to the concerns over the government choosing between protected and unprotected speech. Absent a change in the Supreme Court on the issue, the other option is a constitutional amendment that would bar any campaign contributions by corporate entities, including non-for-profit organizations. As the level of mistrust of the establishment grows with stories like this one, such an option may become more attractive for citizens.