White House for Sale
Welcome to White House for Sale 2008!
This new and revitalized destination site gives you the scoop on big bundlers who are powering today’s billion-dollar race to the White House. Bundlers have enormous influence in determining election winners because they funnel huge sums from other people to candidates. Candidates, for their part, often bestow cutesy titles on them (remember Bush’s “Rangers” and “Pioneers”?) and reward them with access and plum government positions if they win.
In the 2004 presidential campaign, more than 60 of Bush’s big bundlers were federal lobbyists, including disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose influence-peddling scandal laid down breadcrumbs into several congressional offices as well as the Interior Department and landed Abramoff in prison. Bush’s bundlers back in 2000 included former Enron CEO Ken Lay, who was subsequently allowed to help choose two of the five regulators charged with overseeing energy companies. We all remember what happened there.
We think it's long past time for the “For Sale” sign on the White House lawn to come down and stay down. So, we are at it again for the 2008 campaign. This time, the task is more challenging because most of the major candidates are opting out of public financing and being showered with cash collected by bundlers.
The current crop of White House hopefuls is actually worse than the very minimal disclosure standards set by Bush, Dean and Kerry. In 2004, those candidates made bundlers’ names readily accessible and provided at least some insight into how much money bundlers raised. So far in this election, only one 2008 candidate (Barack Obama) is disclosing anything about how much his bundlers are raising.
We don’t plan on letting that slide. We are going continue to demand disclosure by bird-dogging the candidates and relentlessly pursuing better disclosure of the big donors.
The new and improved White House for Sale features a blog, a handful of RSS feeds and a place for video clips of your best bird-dogging. You’ll find the most up-to-date information there is on bundlers and the money race. Our RSS feature can send you updates whenever new bundlers are added to the candidates’ rosters. Our blog provides space for an online conversation about money in presidential politics. We will also roll out handy fact sheets – starting with a concise summary of candidates’ disclosure practices and a scorecard [pdf] showing which bundlers from past elections are busy bundling this time around.
Transparency is important, but the ultimate solution to the money in politics problem is to modernize the presidential public financing system so that ideas, character and leadership – and not merely dollars – can once again decide who wins the White House. Between 1976 and 1996, every winning presidential candidate participated in the public funding system, and the “money primary” was a far less decisive factor in our presidential campaigns. But that system was made virtually obsolete in 2000, when Bush showed a candidate could opt out and raise far more money than those who stayed in would be allowed to spend. A must-pass bi-partisan bill in Congress, the Presidential Public Funding Act of 2007 [pdf], would make public funding viable again.
Please look around the new Web site, let us know what you think, and come back often for the latest on who is bundling the candidates now – and which contenders are still covering up the sources of their campaign cash.
UPDATE: Listen to the press conference for White House for Sale [mp3].