Big Money for Georgia

As the election in Georgia draws near, I have been getting a lot of literature from both parties, always asking for money.   Both parties’ requests say that the contributions are to support something specific, either to support a particular candidate, campaign efforts in Georgia, or, in the case of the Republicans, requests to help support legal efforts to contest the elections in “disputed” states.   For the Georgia election alone, I understand close to a billion dollars, if not more, is going to be raised to sway the hearts and minds of approximately 8 million voters.  

With this much money being raised, it is not clear to me that 100% of that money raised will be used for the purposes specifically stated on the solicitation documentation used to raise it.  Are they really going to spend a billion dollars in advertising and door knocking?   I was curious.  Something seemed off.  The question I asked was “What happens if they get more than they need OR What happens if they decide not to use the money contributed for the purpose they say they will?” My lawyer friend says that the answer to these questions can be found in each document’s fine print. Each solicitation could be different!  

I thought it was worth a look.

The letters from Donald Trump and his family asking for support for legal fees to contest the election were especially concerning.  One, in particular, said, if I understood it correctly, only if you give $6000 or more is there an obligation to spend the money given on legal fees to contest the election results.  Any donation less than that amount could be spent for any purpose as determined by Trump and/or the Republican Party.    What did that mean?   Can the Republican party decide that, if you give less than $6,000, the money can be spent on salaries or expense reimbursement for party officials?  Can Donald Trump decide he wants to use the money to pay personal expenses or business expenses?  A new set of clubs for a political event?   The answer, according to my lawyer friend, is that any donation less than $6000 can be spent for “any purposed deemed valid.”  And, “any purpose deemed valid” means just that, any purpose Trump and/or the Republican Party decide to spend it on, personal expenses, golf clubs, anything!  This doesn’t mean they will, but if they do there is no recourse.  

And Trump and the Republicans are not alone!

All the letters I looked at, from the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and candidates from both sides had something in the fine print that allowed the organizations to use the money for purposes other than what was cited in the solicitation letter. These letters gave the politicians organization to whom money is donated complete discretion about how to spend it. 

Most donors on both sides are giving small amounts.  Do they know whether or not the money they gave is being spent for the purpose they intended?  If they found out it was not, would they be disappointed?   Could anything be done to stop this? Could donors who felt they were being deceived sue and win?  The answer is probably not.  Why?  Because the fine print in the solicitation letter gives people notice that if they donate, the money does not have to spent for the purpose stated in the letter.   In the Trump letter, the obligation to spend money on legal fees only applies to one-time donations of $6000, or greater.  Any money given in an amount less than that can be, essentially, used for any purpose deemed valid.  Since you are told this, you can’t be upset if the money is spent in a way that doesn’t support the reason why you gave the donation in the first place.  

Popular politicians often raise money and then give it to other politicians from their party that are running in difficult races.  The money could go to support other initiatives the politician feels important.  But those candidates, those initiatives may not be things you would support. Ask yourself this, what happened to the war chests raised by the candidates who lost for President?   When it was over, what did Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or Kamal Harris do with their campaign dollars that they hadn’t spent?

How can we stop this?  First, stop wasting your money.  Stop paying for someone else’s fight. Politicians are touting their donations from small donors so you will think they represent “the people.”   Ask yourself, who are these people? When your representatives get to Washington, do they really represent you?   Have they acted in your best interest? Are you better off today than before the last election?  If the answer is no or you’re not sure as it relates to any of these questions, why are you giving them your good money?

Let politicians figure out how to pay their own way.  Your $10 donation is not going to make a difference to them.  Even if a million give $10, you are still one voice in a million, unlikely to be heard.  The person to whom that politician is listening is probably not speaking for you and you will unlikely have direct access to that politician.  Let the rich who buy the politicians pay the entire cost of these battles.  

Second, If you decide you have skin in the game and want to be a part of the battle, take action.   Become active in your party, organize, vote.  If you become an important voice, if you can deliver votes, you will be listened to.  

Stacey Abrams, out of a job, a “loser” after her Georgia governor’s race, felt that voter suppression was the reason for her loss. What did she do?  Abrams started an organization from nothing and launched a movement to end voter suppression.   People got involved. A red state became purple. Now the future of the balance of Congress hinges on the results of the upcoming Georgia Senate elections.  The only reason Democrats have a dog in this fight is because of the groundwork in Georgia done by Stacey Abram’s organization.

You heard the saying “put your money where your mouth is!”  Stacy would say ”Work for your cause!”.  Become part of a movement you care about or, if that doesn’t work for you, start your own. If your going to give money, give money to something or someone you know will use it for the purpose you intended. 

Giving money is passive; it gives the control to someone else. Become active!

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