[Washington Babylon ]Russian Spies and Campaign Finance | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

Russian Spies and Campaign Finance


A reader, who asked to remain anonymous, sends along the following (slightly edited) email:

There are many reasons to move to public financing of elections, the chief one of which is that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that our current system for electing public officials is fundamentally corrupt. Now we have another compelling reason to do away with private financing of election campaigns: America’s enemies have discovered that fastest and easiest way to gain access to American policymakers is to get involved in political fundraising.

According to the criminal complaint against one of the alleged Russian spies arrested over the weekend:

Cynthia Murphy last year was assigned the account of a New York-based financier described as a fundraiser “for a major political party” who is “a personal friend” of a Cabinet member’s. “Try to build up little by little relations with him moving beyond just (work) framework,” said an intercepted communication from “Moscow Center.”

How easy is it to get close to an American politician by becoming a fundraiser? Really, really easy. Just look at the recent ranks of those who sought to bolster their shady business schemes by decorating the walls of their offices with pictures of themselves with American politicians – pictures taken at fundraising events: Norman Hsu, Scott Rothstein, Hassan Nemazee. The list goes on and on.

You don’t even have to run a Ponzi scheme to become a major political donor. The Navy Veterans Association set up a PAC, NAVPAC, ran it for eight years, gave away well over $100,000 in campaign contributions and never disclosed the identity of a single donor to the PAC. The PAC claimed that all the money it raised came from donors that gave less than $200 a year and therefore their identities did not need to be disclosed. Didn’t the lack of donor information make the FEC suspicious? The fact that the Navy Veterans Association was a massive fraud was discovered by two reporters at the St. Petersburg Times.

It would be extremely easy for a foreign intelligence service to infiltrate and compromise an American political party and gain access to America’s secrets by gaining inside access to American politicians.

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