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Wendy Block Headshot

Are You Donating to GOP? Probably...

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The last thing I want to do is help elect Republicans. But every time I gas up my Prius, that's what I'm doing. And despite persistent efforts, I'm about to help subsidize the Romney/Ryan campaign.

Here's why: my fiancé and I need to travel every few months. The hotel chain that works best for us belongs to the Marriott family. Guess who they're buddies with...

According to the ABC News blog OTUS, "(Mitt) Romney's father, George Romney, was so close to John Willard Marriott, the founder of the Marriott enterprise, that he named Romney after him. Romney's first name is actually Willard, and Mitt is his middle name."

The bond is evidently reciprocal. One day last year, Marriott corporations sent one million dollars to the now-familiar-to-political-junkies Restore Our Future Super PAC, an infamous Romney campaign fund. Sheldon Adelson and William Koch are among those bankrolling the nearly $90 million -- as of August, 2012 -- PAC (Political Action Committee).

I discovered this and similar depressing fiscal realities at Open Secrets, an extensive non-partisan database that follows political money and its impact on elections and public policy.

For at least a year I've known about the Romney/Marriott connection. And during that time I've stayed at Marriotts in St. Louis, Mo. and Boulder, Colo. without fretting that I was contributing to deceitful commercials (which could have been in production at the very moment the hotel clerk swiped my credit card). But as November draws near, I can no longer ignore the potential link between my spending (as sub-microscopic as it is) and possible Romney/Ryan/Republicans-in-general victories.

What if our upcoming trips help buy a Karl Rovian ad full of lies that convinces enough people to vote Republican it tips the vote Mittward and catapults him into the White House?

So I check out other familiar hotel franchises at Open Secrets. Only Hyatt, owned by the Pritzger family, supports Democrats (yeah I know there are problems with Dems, but compared to the other side...). Unfortunately, no Hyatts anywhere near our destination.

Had I found the perfect lodging though, it would have been a mistake to feel relieved. There's one detail I've left out. Stephen Colbert will explain soon.

Here's the detail: in the 2012 campaign cycle, corporations can defy accountability. Even companies that give to office seekers and issues you agree with could be shoveling millions to the dark side simultaneously, and you'll never know. That's because Rove and his minions are misusing a type of fund -- a 501(c)(4) (named for its section in the US tax code) -- which allows donors to keep secret their names and the amounts they donate. Take it (after an unavoidable ad), Stephen.

Scrounging for a bright side... what about the hard-working hotel cleaning and maintenance staff? They'll benefit from our visit (and maybe some are undocumented). Si se puede!!!

And this hotel offers some nice perks, like free hot breakfasts. Yes, there are the more or less healthful protein selections, but the highlight is tasty muffinettes from the blueberry, chocolate and sometimes banana-nut lineages. Occasionally, and for no apparent reason, mini-Danish materialize.

And most tempting of all -= at the Boulder location, an enormous transparent cookie jar jammed with fresh-baked, still slightly gooey chocolate chip cookies the size of car elevators entices all who enter the lobby. "Take a few!" the clerks enthuse every time they see you eye the prize. If only 501(c)(4) donations were half this transparent.

As someone obsessed for the past 12 years with establishing full voluntary public funding of election campaigns, I get how big money poisons politics and by extension our lives overall. Unfortunately, the Marriotts, the Romneys, Big Oil, etc. don't agree.

Nor apparently do the legislators who write our country's campaign finance laws, which enable corporations to use the money you and I pay for goods and services, to buy access to... those same legislators.

Maybe there is a solution for my immediate problem. I wonder how many muffins and cookies I'd need to return home with to offset the cost of four nights at the Marriott.