Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Are Superdelegates For Sale?

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By Dr. Lynette Long

In a few weeks the historic 2008 Democratic Party Presidential Primary between an African American Man and a White Woman will end. The two candidates competed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam. At the end of these contests, neither candidate had earned enough pledged delegates to garner the necessary 2118 needed to win the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Hillary Clinton earned 1640 pledged delegates while Barack Obama earned 1763 pledged delegates. A paltry 123 pledged separated the two candidates at the end of the primary season. Since there was no clear winner, the superdelegates would determine the Democratic nominee.

Approximately 800 superdelegates will make up around 20% of the 4000 delegates at the convention. These superdelegates are Democratic Party leaders, Democratic governors, and Democratic members of Congress. They have the right to endorse either candidate without reason and can change their endorsement from one candidate to another at any time. The superdelegates are very powerful and highly sought after by candidates. One superdelegate is equal to one pledged delegate or 11,361 voters in California or 7,220 voters in New York. Many factors influence which candidate a superdelegate a superdelegate endorses but they usually vote the way their constituents vote. Some superdelegates have intense personal relationships with particular candidates that may influence their endorsement. Members of Congress may also be influenced by money given or promised by party leaders, the DNC or the candidates themselves.

Politicians collect money for their campaigns but most Americans don’t realize that politicians collect a separate a pot of money called a Leadership Political Action Committee or PAC. These PACs are used to hire additional staff and pay for additional perks such as limos and first class flights. But one of the major reasons for these PACs is to donate to the campaigns of other candidates. Nancy Pelosi’s PAC is called PAC to the Future, Barack Obama’s PAC is called Hope Fund, and Hillary Clinton’s PAC is called HillPAC. Money was distributed by these PACs to the superdelegates to influence their voting. The Federal Elections Commission requires scrupulous reporting of how PAC money is obtained and how it is spent. This data can be retrieved at

In 2007, Obama distributed 299,000 from his PAC to superdelegates. He especially targeted the states of Iowa and New Hampshire. On July 25, 2007, the Hope Fund made $1000 donations to each of the following groups: Hillsborough=2
0County Democrats, Hudson, NH; Martha Fuller Clark for State Senate, Portsmouth, NH; Merrimack County Democrats, Chichester, NH; New Hampshire for John Lynch, Manchester, NH; Sgambati 4 NH Senate, Tilton, NH; Stafford County Democratic Committee, Durham, NH and Sullivan County Democrats, Claremont, NH. Obama also gave $5000 contributions to New Hampshire Democratic Party, Concord, New Hampshire, on July 26,2007; New Hampshire for John Lynch on July 25, 2007, and New Hampshire Democratic State Committee, Concord, New Hampshire on November 3, 2006. Obama did not announce his candidacy until May 2, 2007.

Obama also gave New Hampshire Democratic State Senator Jacalyn Cilley $1000 on July 25, 2007. She endorsed Obama on July 31, 2007, just six days after his contribution to her campaign. On July 26, 2007, first term New Hampshire Congressman Paul Hodes of New Hampshire endorsed Obama. The New Hampshire Primary was not until January 8, 2008 and Hillary won New Hampshire.

By March 28, 2008, Hope Fund donated $710,900 to superdelegates, more than three times as much as HillPAC. ($236,100). A study by the Center for Responsive Politics showed that presidential candidates who gave more money to a superdelegate received their endorsement 82% of the time. This is especially disturbing when the superdelegates endorse a candidate that is decidedly contrary to the will of the voters in their state and their districts.

After reviewing state and congressional voting records as well as PAC donations, members of Congress were identified that fulfilled the following four criteria: 1. These members endorsed Barack Obama. 2. The constituents of their state preferred Hillary Clinton. 3. The constituents of their district preferred Hillary Clinton. 4. They got more PAC money from Hope Fund than from HillPAC. These senators are Jeff Bingaman, Frank Lautenberg, and Jay Rockefeller. The members of the house are Jason Altmire, Dennis Cardoza, Jim Costa, Joe Donelly, Gabrielle Giffords, Baron Hill, Ron Klein, Patrick Murphy, Gerald Mc Nerney, Carol She-Porter, Zack Space, Niki Tsongas, and Charlie Wilson.

Charlie Wilson is the perfect example. He ran in Ohio’s District 6 in 2006. His seat was the seat of the former governor and is located in Southern Ohio. Wilson was a last minute candidate for his seat and because of this was a write-in candidate. The governor and the party worked hard to get Wilson elected. President Clinton made an audio recording endorsing Wilson that went out to 50,000 homes. The governor of Ohio is a big Clinton supporter, the voters of Ohio voted 54-44% percent in favor of Clinton, and District 6, Wilson’s District, voted for Clinton 70% - 27%. Yet Wilson endorsed Obama. It looks like there is no loyalty in politics to either your constituents or your friends. Wilson got $7,000 of PAC money from Barack Obama, but no money from Hillary Clinton. Was this a factor in his choice?

This chart summarizes the data culled from a variety of sources. The data raises obvious questions about the inherent power of superdelegates and their vulnerability to financial contributions. Contributions from other PACs such as PAC to the Future need to be reviewed.

Chart of Contributions to Superdelegates

The video at the top of this post is the result of a collaboration between myself, GeekLove, and RealDemocratsUSA. We put our heads together to develop a video that would tell the story about superdelegates in dynamic style. We highlighted those members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who met the following criteria:

1. Their home states (and congressional districts, for House members) voted for Senator Clinton in the Democratic primary,
2. they accepted PAC money from Obama, and
3. they endorsed Obama.

Please share, link, or embed the video far and wide: Money Changes Everything: Superdelegates Are For Sale.

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