An all-important newly hatched loophole is being fully exploited by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. For the now-GOP presidential candidate to be allowed on the debate stage, he must show he has grassroots standing within his party, which means a donor list of at least 40,000. He’s nowhere close, but he has a strategy. The first 50,000 donors who send at least a dollar to his campaign will receive a $20 gift card.
If his plan to increase the donor list succeeds, it will cost him a cool $950,000 – but Burgum is a billionaire, so he can afford it. The campaign spins it by saying the goal is to provide relief for those folks suffering from Biden’s poor policies. “Doug knows people are hurting because of Bidenflation, and giving Biden Economic Relief Gift Cards is a way to help 50,000 people until Doug is elected President to fix this crazy economy for everyone,” spokesperson Lance Trover explained.
Passing the Hat in 2023
No one can simply pass the hat around for funds these days. In one way or another, Congress has attempted to curb and regulate contributions to political candidates for a century or more. The Tillman Act of 1907 stopped corporations from backing contenders; the Publicity Act of 1910, amended a couple of times, required disclosure by campaign committees. And in 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act outlawed labor union contributions and restricted corporate and labor spending on federal elections.
But this is a new wrinkle; not everyone believes it’s above board. Specifically, Paul Ryan finds his former Speaker of the House knickers in a knot:
“It sounds like this candidate is using these individuals as straw donors to make it look like he has a bunch of campaign donors when in fact, he’s coaxing these contributions by reimbursing donors out there money that really, at the end of the day, is the candidate’s money.”
For those that may not get the political inside vernacular, a straw donor illegally uses someone else’s money to make separately identified political contributions. Burgum’s amassing of donors doesn’t quite meet that threshold, though.
“Depending on the outcome, it will either be viewed as genius or the dumbest political move in history,” Patricia Crouse, a political science and legal studies professor at the University of New Haven, told NPR. She stopped short of saying it is illegal, perhaps unethical: “Burgum isn’t technically ‘buying’ votes. He is simply buying the right to compete.”
Is that legal or fair to other candidates? The capitalist would say work harder to exceed the heavy prerequisites the GOP has laid down for that first primary debate on August 23 in Milwaukee. With the golden number of 40,000 donors, 200 or more donors must be in at least 20 other states. The 235,629 North Dakotans that voted for Burgum in 2020 still need help getting their candidate out in front. Those who can’t get there will remain primarily unknown and silent.
The Burgum Plan Resonates
“The burden on American families caused by the Democrats is unruly, and Joe Biden is doing nothing to fix it,” Burgum wrote on a WinRed page soliciting donations. He’s not the only candidate that feels the Republican National Committee is too exclusive to unknown presidential wannabes that may be able to offer voters a different perspective.
Vivek Ramaswamy has launched the “Vivek Kitchen Cabinet” and promises to pay participants a percentage of the funds they raise for his campaign. And the extreme longshot candidate, Perry Johnson, a Michigan businessman, is invoking the visage of Tucker Carlson selling T-shirts for $1 that read “I’m with Tucker.”
These are desperate times in the GOP. But there seems to be an entrepreneurial spirit in challenging the seven big names already qualified to debate – and that could open all sorts of exciting possibilities for the voter.
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