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Jewish World Review August 11, 2000 / 10 Menachem-Av, 5760

Don Feder

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Party of the Rich
head to L. A. -- RICH REPUBLICANS -- plutocrats writing campaign checks with one hand as they beat their liveried servants with the other -- were a major theme in coverage of last week's GOP convention. Democrats will pick up the beat at their gathering next week.

They may have had Little Orphan Annies on the stage, but the party relies on an army of Daddy Warbucks to pay the freight, they told us.

The focus was on the Republican Regents -- 139 well-heeled individuals and corporations who've given the party $250,000 apiece since January 1999. Among other perks, Regents played golf with former Cabinet members, had cocktails with retired Gen. Colin Powell and attended a Tiffany & Co. gala where soup was served in mock Faberge eggs.

To re-enforce this image, the media disclosed that 41 percent of the Philly delegates earn in excess of $100,000 annually. And you always thought that the parties recruited convention delegates among K-Mart shoppers.

Neither party would easily be mistaken for public housing. Of delegates to the last Democratic national convention, 35 percent had six-figure incomes. Of the six richest United States senators, five are members of the self-styled party of the proletariat, including Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (net worth, $620 million), Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin ($300 million) and West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller ($200 million).

Someone forgot to tell Jon Corzine to park his stretch limo in the GOP lot. Corzine just spent $36.7 million, almost all of it his own money, to win the Democratic Senate primary in New Jersey. That's more than the Regents gave Republicans in 18 months.

Between Jan. 1, 1999, and March 31, 2000, Republicans collected $86.4 million in soft-money contributions, compared to the Democrats' $77 million. Republicans had the advantage of controlling both houses of Congress.

In March, Democrats broke all records for a single fund-raising event, with an affair at the MCI Center in Washington. Thousands may have paid $50 each for pork ribs with the president. But the bulk of the event's $26.5 million came from 26 co-chairs who gave half a million dollars each, 21 vice chairs who anted up $250,000 apiece and 42 friends, whose esteem took the form of checks for $50,000.

Which party has more middle-class support? The Republican National Committee reports its contributions on a monthly basis and discloses its average donation, usually less than $100.

The Democratic National Committee only reports quarterly, as required by law, and doesn't average its contributions, probably to downplay its dependence on high-dollar donors.

Democrats rely heavily on money from labor unions, Hollywood and trial lawyers.

This makes them beholden to those who want to see a general expansion of the welfare state (Is AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney still a member of the Democratic Socialists of America?), pollute the culture with cinematic sex and violence, and help to raise the cost of consumer products through logic-defying tort judgments.

Republican fat cats favor tax reform, which -- by increasing productivity -- will benefit the nation as well as their individual balance sheets. The top 5 percent of taxpayers (with incomes over $108,000) have 30 percent of the economic pie but pay 51 percent of all federal income taxes. Who can blame them for wanting to keep a bit more of their income?

Then there's Bernard L. Schwartz, CEO of Loral Space and Communications, whose objectives may be less aligned with the national interest. Schwartz donated $1.5 million to the Democratic Party in 1996. Along with Hughes Electronics, Loral gave Communist China data to improve its nuclear missiles.

At the time, the information sharing was illegal. But Bill Clinton provided the company with a retroactive waiver, in a move that looked suspiciously like a payoff. If Republican money promotes tax reform, some Democratic donations facilitate Beijing's armaments program.

High-dollar donations are a consequence of big government. When Washington takes 20.4 percent of the nation's economic output and the Federal Register (which lists rules and regulations on enterprise) is over 71,000 pages, certain individuals will be driven by greed, others from a survival instinct, to try to buy influence.

The answer isn't campaign-finance reform (close one loophole and another opens), but term limitation and a reduction of the size and scope of government. If Bush succeeds in cutting taxes and putting Washington on a diet, there'll be fewer cats of all dimensions prowling the perimeters of electoral politics.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate