Campaign Finance Reform / Politics

Buying Political Clout Across State Lines

Preston Bates (left) and John Ramsey (right). Photo from fourwinds10.net

Preston Bates (left) and John Ramsey (right).
Photo from fourwinds10.net

While researching a list of campaign contributors from Austin, Texas on Fundrace, I stumbled upon one particularly interesting donor: John Ramsey, a 21-year-old college student at Stephen F. Austin University, who recently inherited a large sum of money from his grandfather, making Mr. Ramsey and his two siblings millionaires overnight. Mr. Ramsey and his two siblings inherited from their grandfather holdings in real estate, timber, natural gas and other industries in separate accounts.

While working on the Ron Paul campaign in Iowa, Mr. Ramsey met Preston Bates, a Kentucky political operative. The two men decided to work together, and founded Liberty for All super-PAC

to help promote candidates for congress who shared the same political ideology as Ron Paul. Mr. Ramsey’s super-PAC helped two candidates win their primaries for their district: Tom Massie (Kentucky 4th district) and Kerry Bentivolio (Michigan 11th district). According to Opensecrets.org, Liberty for All has raised $2,477,692. According to a Mother Jones article from the September/October 2012 issue, Mr. Ramsey has contributed $890,000 to Liberty for All, and according to Fundrace, he donated $199,843 of that sum in the first quarter of 2012 alone.

In the Tom Massie campaign in Kentucky’s 4th District, Liberty for All spent $629,201 in support of Tom Massie. Tom Massie had entered the race with a strong lead, but had slipped when his rival, Alecia Webb-Edgington, received the backing of former Congressman Geoff Davis (Kentucky 4th District) and former Senator Jim Bunning. Tom Massie was unable to afford the ad time necessary to compete against his rival, and that’s where Liberty for All came in. They were able to pay for the ad time necessary to turn the tide. Thanks to the intervention of Liberty for All, Tom Massie was able to secure the Republican nomination.

With Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s campaign unable to deliver enough authentic signatures to qualify for the ballot to run for his sixth term, only one Republican was left to run on the ticket for Michigan’s 11th District, Kerry Bentivolio. Democrats in the district saw Mr. Bentivolio as an easy target, and local Republican leaders stepped in to back former Michigan state senator, Nancy Cassis, as a write-in candidate. Liberty for All was not pleased by this, and decided to pour money into this campaign to support Mr. Bentivolio.  According to Opensecrets.org, Liberty for All spent $455,949 against Nancy Cassis, and $168,950 for Kerry Bentivolio. Thanks to the aid of Liberty for All, Bentivolio was able to win the Republican Party nomination.

Both of these men went on to win the general election thanks to funding from Mr. Ramsey’s super-PAC. It’s unsettling that a 21-year-old millionaire, or rather any single person, is able to immensely influence elections to support their personal political ideology. Not only that, but Mr. Ramsey has leverage in districts that don’t even represent him. The representatives in the House ought to represent their constituents at home, not the interests of a young millionaire in a far off state. This is a perfect display of how our current campaign finance system fails to ensure that our representatives are dependent upon the people alone. John Ramsey and his super-PAC claim to want liberty for all, but their actions tell a different tale. One has to wonder, for whom do they really want liberty for? And how tawdry must their idea of liberty be, if they think it is something you can buy.

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