By: Tiffany Muller
One of the bedrocks of Donald Trump’s early and surprising success as a candidate was his staunch scorn for our broken campaign finance system.
Before revelations of his illegal $25,000 donation and fundraiser for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi during her investigation of the Trump University scam, he admitted that he had participated in, and benefited from, a system that rewards the wealthy and powerful at the expense of average Americans.
He often boasted about his special access to politicians, and that they did what he wanted. He claimed that he couldn’t be influenced and bashed his Republican rivals, calling them puppets of the special interests.
To many voters across the political spectrum it was startlingly refreshing. Finally, someone had the guts to tell it like it is. Little did they know it wouldn’t be long before the worm would turn.
At the time, Trump’s unwavering disdain for a corrupt system put him at odds with much of the Republican establishment that has opposed even the smallest and most popular reforms, such as increasing transparency. It even aligned him closely with his Democratic rivals, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who had proposed major campaign finance reforms as part of their platforms.
Back then, it seemed possible that Donald Trump, unlike any other major Republican candidate, would actually pursue change.
As the months passed (and his campaign became more expensive), Mr. Trump failed to propose any concrete plans to address the problem. In fact, he pledged to further blur the lines that protect charities from becoming tools to launder political spending for special interests.
His contempt for Super PACs and big money tapered as he began courting mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson and his campaign endorsed an official Trump Super PAC. Finally, he abandoned all pretenses and agreed to begin fundraising for one.
And all his bluster about having influence over politicians vanished as the heat from the Bondi pay-to-play scandal intensified.
He further aligned himself with secretive, big money interests when he hired Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to take over his campaign. They are copiously linked to the billionaire and Super PAC benefactor Mercer family.
Next, he hired David Bossie, one of the chief instigators and architects of our current dysfunction. As President of Citizens United and a driver of the court case that bears his organization’s name, Bossie was a pivotal force in the decision that opened the floodgates of undisclosed, unlimited money in our elections.
Then came the astonishing revelation that in 2014 Trump paid Citizens United $100,000 that helped fund a lawsuit against a one of his political enemies, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In 2013, Schneiderman investigated Trump University. He’s filed a lawsuit, currently pending in New York state courts, accusing Trump of ripping off students through fraudulent and deceptive trade practices.
It has become clear that Donald Trump has no core belief in campaign finance reform, but on the contrary, he is a serial manipulator of the broken system that is rigged against middle class families and has gridlocked Washington.
Voters who care about reforming our system, getting big money out of politics, and making government more responsive to their needs, should look at Hillary Clinton’s support for legislation to bring more transparency to political spending, her pledge to push for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and her desire to appoint Supreme Court justices who understand the damage Citizens United has caused to our democracy.
American families overwhelmingly understand that Washington won’t work for them unless we reform our campaign finance system. They know it’s the only way to end the gridlock and political games holding our country back. They want to preserve our democracy so it is truly beholden to the people, and to no one else. In contrast to those ideals, Donald Trump has doubled down on the dysfunction.