Two Wealthy Donors Fund Democratic PAC Despite Liberal Criticism

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Two wealthy donors are funding a PAC established by the Democratic Party in 2017, despite previously raised concerns about the influence of money in politics.

Deborah J. Simon and Donald Selwyn Sussman donated more than $1.7 million combined to the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund in the first two months of 2019, according to the Federal Election Commission.

In 2017, the nonprofit Issue One, an organization focused on reducing money's influence in politics, raised concerns about the Victory Fund, which was formed to solicit contributions to support the Democratic National Committee and state parties. Issue One noted that the Victory Fund's structure could allow it to seek donations of more than half a million dollars per donor per year.

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The current chief financial officer of the Democratic National Committee, Joseph Smolskis, is also the treasurer of the Victory Fund.

"The Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund seems to be drawing a roadmap for how wealthy people can give more than half a million dollars a year in a single check to the political party of their choice," Meredith McGehee, Issue One's chief of policy, programs, and strategy said in 2017. "In spite of its name, it seems highly unlikely this fund will focus on the grassroots. There’s a huge disconnect between this new fundraising organization’s name and what it does to eviscerate campaign contribution limits."

"The larger the joint fundraising committee, the larger the risk of corruption and the appearance of corruption," Michael Beckel, Issue One's manager of research, investigations and policy analysis added. "The U.S. Supreme Court has said the integrity of our democracy is undermined if large contributions are given to a politician or political group to secure a quid pro quo. The risk of political corruption is heightened if party leaders or members of Congress are soliciting six-figure or seven-figure checks from wealthy donors seeking access and influence. This new fundraising group harkens back to the days of political ‘soft money’ when party leaders routinely asked donors for massive campaign contributions."