Discover more from Dana Criswell
Who do lobbyist support?
where does the money come from
I was first elected in 2015, to serve in the Mississippi House of Representatives. I’m often asked how I got involved in politics and what other political position I held before Representative.
I had never run for any office before and was by any measure a complete novice at politics. I had always voted and I grew up listening to my dad, grandparents, and my great-uncle argue over politics, but I had never considered running. However, on New Years Eve 2014, I found myself sitting on the couch discussing the possibility with my wife.
Julie was not thrilled with the idea but finally agreed that I could take $2000 out of savings, print some flyers and a couple of signs and give it a shot. So right after the first of the year off I went, designing my logo, printing some cards and figuring out how to “qualify” to run and challenge the long-time incumbent.
I had no idea how to run a campaign, but the local conservative group, Desoto County Conservative Coalition, held a candidate training class one Saturday where I learned some of the ins-and-outs of campaigning. But even after that class I really didn’t know what I was doing.
It turns out that $2000 does not even scratch the surface of the money needed to run a campaign, that figure is closer to $40,000. If I had known that before I started my adventure, I probably would have made another choice and I’m sure Julie would have put a swift end to my idea. But, since I was already in the race and I’m too stubborn to ever quite something I’ve started, I kept going.
The money is what I really want to talk about today because $40,000 is a lot of money and an amount that scares most people away from putting their name on the ballot. So how do candidates raise this much money?
A newly minted candidate is told to make a list of everyone they know; friends, family, acquaintances, anyone and everyone goes on the list. Then they estimate how much money each person spends eating out for a month, take that dollar amount, double it and start making phone calls. It is an excruciatingly painful process. Very few people enjoy this process but there really isn’t any other way to fund a $40,000 campaign unless you personally have the cash in the bank or you know someone who does.
So why am I telling you this? Before my adventure into politics I occasionally gave a candidate a couple of dollars. I remember the first time Chris McDaniel ran for U.S. Senate I think I gave him $50 and I was proud of that donation. But I had no idea how difficult it is for a candidate to raise the money needed to run a successful campaign and I doubt you do either.
And here is another little secret, incumbents don’t have this problem! You see, once elected, a “good” politician and by good I mean a generally bad, dishonest politician, immediately starts raising money for their next campaign. But once elected they no longer call friends and family, they now call the lobbyist. Lobbyist hand out checks every year, not just election years, to their favorite politicians. A politician just goes to the post office and there are $500 checks, $1000 checks and even more if you are a chairman or vice-chairman right there in the box.
So when I first got elected checks magically appeared in my mailbox. But only for my first couple of years after the election, because I discovered very quickly that those checks come with strings. They are not for everyone, they only go to the politicians who vote the way they are asked to vote. At first I received checks from the hospital association, but when they came out supporting medicaid expansion and I opposed medicaid expansion the checks stopped. I received checks from the auto dealers association, until I opposed legislation that protected car dealerships at the expense of their customers, then the checks stopped. After my first year in the legislature I don’t think I received more than 2 or 3 checks the next 7 years.
One day I asked a lobbyist why I couldn’t get any money for my next campaign, and his response was, “Would it change your vote if I sent you some money?” My answer of course was an answer he already knew, No. So what he said next was, “If I give you money, or not, it will not change how you vote. If you support a bill I am pushing, you would vote for it whether I give you money or not, and if you oppose a bill I am pushing a donation to you would not get you on my side. So there is no reason for me to give you any money. My money is better spent on guys I can influence.”
So there you have it folks, if your candidate has a ton of money in their campaign account, and it is lobbyist money, then you can bet the lobbyist believe they can be influenced by money.
This makes it even more important for folks like me and you to give to candidates that we trust. If they hold true to their convictions then our money is the only money they will have to run a campaign. Without our money, the only politicians left are those who are controlled by the lobbyist.
Money talks so we need to start talking with our money. Find a candidate that will not sell out to the lobbyist and make a donation. How much do you spend eating out every month? I bet it’s more than $50!
We have less than two months until the primary election, they need your money NOW!
PS - Want to know who to donate too? Check out my list of candidates worthy of your support.