Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff Proposes Big Donors Engage in Equivalent of “Political Blackmail,” Makes Powerful Case for Public Financing of Federal Elections

Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer

According to a news report yesterday in Politico, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, recently urged a roomful of wealthy Republican donors to use their contributions to candidates and Super PACs to oppose congressional Republicans who don’t support President Trump’s legislative agenda.

According to the report, Ayers told the donors that they should “form a coalition” and tell Republican members of Congress who do not support the Administration’s agenda that “we’re recruiting opponents, we’re maxing out to their campaigns, and we’re funding super PACs to defeat all of you.”

Vice President Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers just made a powerful case for public financing of elections.

Senator Tom Udall and Rep. David Price introduced the “We the People Democracy Reform Act” last week, a comprehensive package of democracy reforms that includes provisions to establish a system of public financing for presidential and congressional races.  The new system would match small contributions to federal candidates with multiple public funds.

The public financing system in the Udall-Price legislation would provide members of Congress with an alternative means to finance their campaigns that does not leave them indebted and beholden to the whims and desires of big money funders.

In urging wealthy donors to use unlimited Super PAC donations to threaten and intimidate Senators and Representatives, Ayers put a lie to the claim that huge contributions to Super PACs cannot have corrupting influence on officeholders.

The comments by Ayers instead show the reality — Super PACs are almost perfect vehicles of corruption. They raise and spend multi-million dollar contributions and even the threat that they might turn on a Member of Congress can be used to intimidate that Member into voting as the donors, and in this case the Administration, want.

It is unprecedented – and the equivalent of proposing “political blackmail” – for a high-ranking White House official to call on big donors to use their huge contributions as a weapon to threaten and oppose Senators and Representatives of his own party who do not support Administration policies.

The Office of Government Ethics and the White House counsel should investigate whether Nick Ayers’ brazen request for wealthy donors to use Super PAC contributions to intimidate and influence members of Congress was an appropriate action for a White House official to take.

Read the original article here in Politico.