Bundling goes beyond the Beltway. This story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which features commentary from Public Campaign's Nick Nyhart looks at the end run around contribution limits by one very wealthy supporter of St. Louis mayor Francis Slay.
Paul McKee is a developer whose fortunes rise and fall with the tax credits meted out by city officials. When contributions limits were reinstated for Missouri election, McKee repackaged an original contribution of $13,000 to Slay by bundling contributions from his family and his other business interests. And so the original purpose of contribution limits is defeated:
"It's bad table manners. It's probably immoral. But it is within the law, unfortunately," said James Trout, a former state House candidate from Webster Groves.
Credit to Slay for voluntarily refunding contributions that were over the limit when those limits were reinstated, but clearly a more sweeping measure is needed to effectively limit the influence of campaign donations on elections.
Corporations using related entities to max out their contributions is an issue all over the country, said Nick Nyhart, president of the Washington-based advocacy group Public Campaign.
Even at the federal level, where direct corporate donations are prohibited, candidates benefit from "super bundlers" — individuals who collect many individual donations on behalf of a single candidate.
It "undermines democracy," Nyhart says, by making it difficult to track donations, and giving corporations more sway than voters.
"An ordinary person who can give only once and is subject to the campaign limit has less power to give than the person who controls several businesses," Nyhart said.
Again, it's not the name on the check it's the controlling influence behind the money, and what they expect as a return on their investment. A full public financing program would mean equal investment by all voters -- and equal return.