The value of an endorsement

Former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson has pled guilty to falsifying campaign finance reports. Apparently, in 2008, an operative of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, Dmitri Kasari, offered Sorenson $8,000 a month to switch his support from Michelle Bachmann to Rep. Paul. The payments were reported through other vendors. Sorenson was eventually paid at least $73,000.

This type of petty bribery is of only mild interest to us. No public monies were involved, no government policy was corrupted, etc., no government power was abused.

No, what’s of greater interest to us is the value of an endorsement from a single state senator – in some cases, apparently, at least $73,000. Note that it is perfectly legal for that state senator can go into a candidate’s office, and say, “I’ll endorse you if you promise to take lawful actions X, Y, and Z… My endorsement is worth upwards of $70,000 in campaign expenditures.” He can then make the endorsement if he is satisfied with the answer he receives. And, of course, it’s perfectly legal for a newspaper editor to make the same type of offer.

But if you or I or some local activist or small businessman goes in and says, “I like a lot of your positions, I think your opponent is a crook, and I’m thinking of contributing $3,000 to your campaign, but I want to know first – are you opposed to or in favor of green energy subsidies?” it would be illegal to actually make that $3,000 contribution to the campaign if you were satisfied with the answer received.

Strange concept, what many so-called “reformers” view as “undue influence.”

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.