DNC must ban every corporate dollar or risk total irrelevancy

DNC must ban every corporate dollar or risk total irrelevancy
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In a post on Medium last month, Democratic Party Chairman Tom PerezThomas PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE went through a list of steps he would take to make the party adhere to its principles. Now that the deck chair shuffling on the Democratic Party’s Unity Reform Commission is over, it’s revealing that the little stuff got addressed but not the largest threat to the party.

In that post, Perez pledged that, “…we will reject contributions from corporate PAC donors whose goals conflict with our platform.” Perez cared so much about the influence of corporate dollars on the party he asked not a single question about the topic in a faux “let’s solicit the grassroots” on-line survey seeking Democrats’ input.


In fact, the entire commission dealt with a whole set of issues — superdelegates, voter registration and the conduct of caucuses — but sidestepped entirely the role of corporate money in the party. 


I do believe, as a former Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders opposes Biden Interior nominee in procedural vote Briahna Joy Gray on how Sanders changed the healthcare conversation Sanders 'delighted' DeSantis asked White House to import Canadian prescription drugs MORE national surrogate, that the rules and structures of the 2016 primary process, as well as the unprincipled actions of deposed DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzOmar feuds with Jewish Democrats Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Theatres are a vital educational, creative and economic resource to communities MORE, played a part in Sanders coming up short of the nomination. However, there were many factors, including weaknesses of the one-year campaign, that played a role and are still worthy of exploration.

Without a doubt, a corporate lobbyist will have hurt feelings if he or she loses an automatic superdelegate slot. But, that “reform” will matter little if the lobbyist — and hundreds of other corporate messengers — can direct money into the party’s coffers.

It is indisputable, based now on decades of experience, that money buys access and, then, that access buys votes. You can see that concretely when Democrats support corporate-style trade deals, vote for Republican-lite corporate tax cuts or pimp for insurance industry-profiteering protections. This is the cancer eating the core of the party.

To issue a challenge to Perez to live up to his pronouncement, I asked the Center for Responsive Politics to look at the dollars flowing to the DNC from corporations in the most recent cycle.

The information breaks down into money donated to support the convention and money going to the DNC PAC, DNC Services Corporation — just two conduits for contributions. 

Presumably, based on the information publicly available, Perez will henceforth reject all Wal-Mart money, which, based on these records, totaled $30,000.

The DNC platform states, “We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy so every worker can earn at least $15 an hour."

Few corporations in the country are as stridently anti-union and opposed to raising the minimum wage as Wal-Mart, which profits from the poverty of its workers.

Perez will also return any check from Comcast or Verizon. The party’s platform declares, “Democrats support a free and open internet at home and abroad, and will oppose any effort by Republicans to roll back the historic net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission enacted last year.” Both companies aggressively championed the erasing of net neutrality.

AT&T, poised to buy Time Warner, would presumably run afoul of the party’s view that:

“Large corporations have concentrated their control over markets to a greater degree than Americans have seen in decades — further evidence that the deck is stacked for those at the top. Democrats will take steps to stop corporate concentration in any industry where it is unfairly limiting competition."

Lastly, one can assume that Lockheed, which lobbied hard for money to build 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — 20 more than the Pentagon asked for — won’t have its future checks cashed because the party says:

“We must end waste in the defense budget. We will audit the Pentagon, launch a high-level commission to review the role of defense contractors, and take greater action against those who have been involved in fraud.”

I could point out ways in which actions of each of the corporations in the 2016 cycle list contradict the party’s platform. But here is the real truth: The party must ban every corporate dollar from its treasury.

Otherwise, when Republicans continue to make false appeals to the working person, Democrats will find it that much harder to make the case that only one party is looking out for the people who live paycheck to paycheck.

In his epic 1978 account of the populist agrarian movement that flourished in the late 19th century, “The Populist Moment”, Lawrence Goodwyn wrote that, “Democrats could not be the friends of railroad workers because the old party was dominated by railroad corporations.”

He wrote they could not be allies of workers despite the fact that, “A large number of people in the United States discovered that the economic premises of their society were working against them.” 

This is what we face today. Over a century later, the names and the industries may have changed. But, the Democratic Party risks the same irrelevancy as long as it pockets corporate dollars. Your move, Chairman Perez.

Jonathan Tasini (@jonathantasini) is the author of "The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America," president of the Economic Future Group and the host of the "Working Life" podcast.