By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
The impact of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision continues to negatively impact politics in the country and in New Hampshire.
Swinging the money door wide open without what had been the ability to know where the money is coming from, makes you wonder who the candidates running for federal office serve.
Recently the National Rifle Associations’s campaign contributions and the inability of Congress to enact meaningful gun regulations a majority of the country supports has been raised again after another horrible school massacre.
But at least with the NRA, you know what the agenda is and who they are.
The same cannot be said about super PACS (political action committees) and the fundraising arms of the two major parties: WinRed and ActBlue.
They serve as money laundering operations placing a fence between candidates and donors so it is nearly impossible to link the funding to the candidate to know who is pouring money into a candidate’s campaign.
For example, more than half of US Sen. Maggie Hassan’s itemized individual donors are from ActBlue, many are from out of state and many from states other than New Hampshire.
The itemized individual donors contributed $12 million of her funding.
Through the last federal reporting period which ended March 31, Hassan raised nearly $22 million, far more than any Republican challenger. Her campaign spent $14.4 million and had $7.6 million in cash.
The Republican candidate for the US Senate nomination with the most money at the end of the last filing period was Senate President Chuck Morse, who raised $750,000, and with a number of itemized individual contributions coming for WinRed listing Virginia as the state of the contributor, which is the WinRed headquarters, but not necessarily the state of the contributor.
While the number of contributions coming through the party’s fundraising arm is a lower percentage than Hassan’s, other Republican candidates receive most of their contributions through WinRed.
For example, Matt Mowers, who is running again for the Republican nomination for the 1st District Congressional seat held by Democrat Chris Pappas, who defeated Mowers two years ago.
Mowers raised more money than any other Republican candidate for the seat, $1.18 million at the end of the last filing period.
Of his $743,647 in itemized individual contributions a vast majority come from WinRed in identical sums of $63,757.90.
It is hard to find New England contributors to his campaign, much less New Hampshire residents, from information filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
There may be contributors from New Hampshire through the WinRed apparatus, but that is not apparent from the filing.
Pappas raised $2.12 million at the end of the last filing period.
Of the $1.3 million in itemized individual contributions, much of his money comes from ActBlue with the Somerville, Massachusetts address of its headquarters.
However, individual contributors from New Hampshire are more prevalent for Pappas than Mowers.
Why is this important?
Campaigns have become much more expensive since the US Supreme Court’s 2010 decision which effectively blocked limits on campaign spending and who could contribute.
The decision opened the floodgates for corporations, unions, wealthy individuals, organizations and advocacy groups to spend billions of dollars to exert their influence over government policies, regulations and lawmaking.
Those who follow election spending say the amount of money going into political campaigns skyrocketed after the decision.
The results of the additional money are obvious.
When the unlimited resources of some are applied to the political process, the average individual citizen no longer has a seat at the table when key decisions are made.
How else do billionaires and millionaires avoid paying any federal income tax, when folks like you and me send the federal government as much of our income as we do?
They buy politicians, who need the money to fund multi millions of dollar campaigns to be elected or re-elected.
In return they receive tax loopholes that allow them to avoid paying taxes in ways not available to lower earners.
The court decision also essentially granted corporations the same first amendment rights as individuals giving rise to Super PACs that spend billions of dollars of “dark money.” Those putting up the money are anonymous contributors with no way to know who is funding a campaign or initiative.
For example, in the last two state elections, about $11.1 million was spent on the races for governor, executive council, senate and house.
While more money came from independent spending $3.2 million and party committees $8.7 million came with little or no disclosure.
If you look at the money spent on US Senate races in New Hampshire during the last decade, you will see a spike upward that has not slowed down.
Gubernatorial races have also become more expensive as have state senate and house races. One organization, Americans for Prosperity — NH, poured about $1 million into Senate and House races in the 2020 election and you will never know the individuals or corporations or tax-exempt organizations who gave that money to influence state policy making.
AFP is “an educational” organization and not a political one that ostensibly advocates for positions, but not candidates, but the line is very blurry as most know. The group does not have to disclose its contributors.
The Citizens United decision also blew up the state’s voluntary spending limits, although most candidates refused to agree to them before the order because to do so would be almost certain death in major races like Governor, US Senator or US Representative.
When people spend money, they expect something in return and that is true with politics today.
People wonder why federal issues have become state issues to be debated on the floors of Representatives Hall or the Senate Chambers.
School choice never had much traction in New Hampshire until about six years ago, and critical race theory was not on anyone’s radar in the Granite State, nor were member-only health care providers.
But they are significant issues in New Hampshire today.
The money driving national issues has the same source as the money funding local races and there is a desired outcome that must be achieved.
There was always money in politics and organizations and individuals who helped the candidates they agreed with.
But today the kind of money going into campaigns from President to County Commissioner demands a specific outcome.
With all that money flowing to politicians, the average citizen is forgotten.
The folks putting all this money into the political landscape have hired the best public relations agencies money can buy to convince you they are taking care of your interests, but they are not.
It is their interests the politicians serve and the average citizen is a pawn in their chess match.
That is what Citizens United has done to the country and fueled the partisan divide.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.