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Huang was the “homemaker” who ranked #262 on last year’s
Although few suspected that her husband John’s fundraising for the
National Committee would become part of a national scandal,
the very size of her
combined $66,000-plus in contributions should have
Similarly, this year’s list,
covering the 1995-96 election
cycle, provides clues to future
campaign scandals. With gifts to the
political parties virtually unregulated,
huge donations have become
outrageously common. The current rankings are based on
such “soft money”
gifts as well as contributions to federal candidates and
action committees. They do not include money spent on the renting of
or the fueling of sophisticated public relations campaigns
True, the likes of Apple
founder Steve Jobs (#128) or Barbra Streisand (#369)
appear to have contributed out of charity or vanity. But
big donors are
more often motivated by the need for a legislative or regulatory
Take David H. Koch (#10), an oil
magnate who spread around scads of cash to
block tougher EPA regulations
of a type of air pollution that may cause 40,000
premature deaths each
year. Or investment banker and fundamentalist Foster Friess (#14),
pursues favorable treatment of mutual funds when he’s not helping run
cabal that shapes GOP policy.
On the opposite curb of this shakedown
stand fundraisers like Terry McAuliffe. He likes to stress that he
President Clinton rather than the troubled DNC. But our
profile of him (see
“Big Game Hunter“) reveals
otherwise and demonstrates the blurry moral
character of the status quo.
That both parties play the big-money game offers no
voters. An unacceptable corrosion occurs when the influence of
clearly trumps that of average citizens. But reform is possible: The
proposals in “Reform School” would increase
both transparency and accountability. Crisis
breeds opportunity, and
rather than being enervated by the current scandals, we
should seize this
rare chance to shift power from the bigwigs to the electorate.