The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years?
The talks ended with a bipartisan agreement between Senate Democrats, led by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party’s national committees.
The agreement drew intense criticism from both liberal Democrats and Tea Party-aligned Republicans when details of the new limits began circulating last week. It is now headed for likely passage as a rider in a $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with provisions sought by banks, food industry lobbyists and other special interests. It continued to draw fierce attacks as lawmakers prepared to vote on a final spending bill, even as Democratic leaders privately defended the addition as a necessary compromise to forestall more aggressive efforts by Republicans next year to whittle away at other campaign funding restrictions.
It was Mr. Boehner’s team that first approached Mr. Reid’s negotiators with a proposal, according to Republicans and Democrats with knowledge of the discussions.
After successfully pushing legislation in March to abolish public financing for party conventions, some Republicans had become worried about how they would pay for their 2016 convention, scheduled to be held in Cleveland, in Mr. Boehner’s home state, Ohio. Some feared that the party would have to scale back the convention, losing clout and prestige to the big-money outside groups that are playing bigger roles in campaigns.Democrats also wanted provisions for legal and building costs. They got them, as Open Secrets explains:
As things stand now, an individual donor may give $32,400 to a national party committee each year, and there are three on each side (besides the DNC and RNC, there are the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committeeand the National Republican Senatorial Committee).
Under the language slipped into the omnibus spending bill Tuesday night as a rider, all three party committees on each side would be allowed to create two more offshoots — one to pay for legal costs and recounts, and another to pay for the nebulously-described “building expenses.” The main national committee of each party would also be able to create a fund to help pay for the presidential nominating convention. There would be a total of seven committees, instead of three, on each side, and each of the four newly created committees would be able to accept donations of up to $97,400. That’s on top of the $97,400 that can already be donated to the three original committees.
The grand total for a donor who wanted to give the maximum to each of the three original committees and all of the four new committees would be $776,000 per year, or $1.5 million per two-year election cycle; for a couple, the total comes to a cool $3 million.