THE BLOG

Conservative Leader Tony Perkins Is Right: Donate to People, Not Political Committees

06/01/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

No, this is not an April Fool's prank. I actually do agree with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that conservative voters should stop giving money to the Republican National Committee. And Democratic voters should follow suit. There. I said it.

The fact of the matter is that, like unions, the political parties are more interested in their own corporate welfare than in protecting the interests of the rank and file members -- the citizens, the voters. The parties chase large corporate donations, side-stepping FEC restrictions by cleverly funneling them into "issues" advertising and promotions that just so happen to feature the images of favored or vilified candidates. In doing so, they make the kind of sweetheart, backroom deals that end up gutting all attempts at real reform.

Conservatives feel that way about the RNC's toothless attempts to overturn Roe V. Wade for 40 years and to thwart progress on providing equality for minorities, gays and women. Certainly Liberals feel that way about the DNC's weakened health care reform, watered down environmental protections and gummy reprisals for Wall Street abuses.

In an interview with CNN, Perkins said, "We can work outside the party structure very effectively." He is correct. Until the candidate took himself out of the running, it was a grassroots movement that propelled Howard Dean to become the leading Democratic presidential contender in 2004. The blueprint of that movement was mightily used to also turn Barack Obama into a viable challenger to 2008's sure-thing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. And as much as it will no doubt chafe the ardent liberal activists to admit, the Tea Party movement has also used our methods. Frankly, good for them.

Grassroots engagement is the most pure expression of citizenship there is, and it is the most honest way to influence the political process. Now, I will not take time here to get into how this can also be abused by large entities (parties and corporate interests alike) who can seduce independent grassroots groups by offering to "sponsor" communications efforts. That is for another blog. But I definitely agree with Perkins that Conservative and Liberal voters alike have not been well-served by donating to the two major political parties.

The Internet gives voters the autonomy and sophisticated tools they need to organize, communicate and activate large groups that can have major and lasting impact. It was, after all, the grassroots Dean movement that cause the parties to get religion on the power of the Internet to raise money. We did it through Yahoo! Groups, Meetups, and by creating rudimentary donation widgets that have now become a high powered norm.

I applaud Perkins for suggesting that voters should donate directly to candidates in whom they believe. Their money will be more appreciated, their individual voices more heard, and they will have greater personal impact on the process. The Founding Fathers never intended for corporations of any ilk (S, 501-C, LLC, etc.) to have the same rights as individuals. As a right-wing-nut relative of mine recently said, "Why should George Soros be able to use his many companies to buy candidates?" Of course I turned it around and asked him why should Rupert Murdoch or General Electric be able to either?

Simply stated, corporations, by definition, are not citizens, yet the power of the almighty dollar gives them an unfair multiplier effect so that their machinations and dealings usurp the interests and common good of the people. Now don't get in a lather over that statement. I am also an ardent capitalist. My bread has been very well buttered by representing the interests of some of the biggest corporations on this planet, and I am still loyal to them. I am also a small business owner.

Being a capitalist and believing that corporations are not citizens are not mutually exclusive.

To suggest that corporations are a collection of people with common interests and therefore are owed the inalienable rights defined in the Constitution is to use sophistry. I guarantee you that if you polled every stockholder of any single corporation, they would not be in lock step with the decisions that are made by the board of directors. Nor would they be in 100 percent agreement with the political donations made by that corporation. In fact, many would be aghast if they really knew what was going on and how their investments were being used.

So, yes. In this case, I wholeheartedly agree with Tony Perkins. And that's no foolin'.