South Dakota Apostolic Prayer Network

SD State Coordinator Betsy Moeller

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Time is steadily moving towards the mid-term elections in November - an opportunity that both parties have their eyes fixed on as it could dramatically alter the balance of power in Congress and significantly affect the next two years of legislation.
We are often told that statistically only 50% of believers are registered to vote and that only half of those registered actually follow through with a vote on election day. If we as the body of Christ have not taken hold of even the most basic opportunity to influence the governing of our nation, it is safe to assume we don’t fully understand many aspects of the political process as a whole. This is not entirely our fault; there is no question that the American political system has become overly complex.
As reformers, however, we do want to be good stewards of our nation and understand as much as we can. Below is a practical look at the significant role money plays in the election process. Some might consider moving beyond prayer to practically support a candidate, special interest group, agenda, etc. It is important to be knowledgeable of how the system works and how to be most effective. One of our state leaders, Craig Bensen, has put together a concise, easy to understand overview to help us understand some of the terms and issues we will be hearing over the next few months.

In addition, we encourage you to get informed on the races in your state as well as the top issues to be aware of. Please click here to read an article that includes your state's voter's guide that includes all this information!

For the nation,

Mike and Cindy Jacobs


Money in Politics
by Craig Bensen
In a campaign year we expect to hear some discussion of the campaign fundraising process. Some of this discussion is related to the average American 's astonishment as to the amount of money that is involved in the process - nearly $5 billion in the Federal elections of 2012; however, the bulk of the discussion relates to issues of fairness, transparency and abuse of the process.
First, let's limit ourselves to the financing of Federal campaigns and the role of money in this arena. The 50 states have their own labyrinths of campaign finance laws. If one has a grasp of the game at the Federal level, the mechanics of most state laws will be understandable.
Second, money is essential to modern American politics. In the movies, Mr. Smith can go to Washington riding a populist dream and remain beholden to no one but "the people". In reality, no candidate advances in a contest for a Federal seat without learning to do math involving millions of dollars or without understanding the calculus of values attached to those dollars.
Third, occasional efforts to "clean up" campaign fundraising by rewriting the rules will continue to be fronts for one party attempting to disadvantage the other party. Of course, Ralph Nader is above all this -- he's willing to disadvantage both major parties.
Defining Terms
Hard Money - 'federal money" or campaign expenditures falling under the purview of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Federal law regulates how much individuals and organizations may contribute to political campaigns, political parties, or other organizations watched by the FEC. Corporations and unions may not donate money directly to candidates or national party committees.
During any one campaign cycle an individual may give up to $2,600 to any individual candidate or up to $30,800 to a national party committee (these amounts are indexed to inflation).
National Party Committees and most PACs may contribute up to $5000 per cycle to any one candidate.
The intention of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971 was to "limit the influence" of "big money" in politics. The history of the next 33 years suggests that the attempt failed.
Big Money - the contributions from rich folk in the other party.
Soft Money - "non-federal money" or campaign expenditures not falling under the purview of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Prior to the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA, McCain–Feingold Act), Congress could not restrict the total amount of "independent expenditures" made by a political party without coordination with a candidate. This allowed large amounts of soft money to be used for "legislative advocacy media advertisements" as long as they did not advocate for a federal candidate. Thus political parties bypassed FEC oversight and the limitations imposed by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971.
Illegal Money - Disallowed are any direct campaign contributions from foreign individuals, corporations or governments, as well as any money from Federal Government Contractors, Corporations and Unions, Contributions in the Name of Another (I give you $$$ and you make the contribution) and any Excessive Contributions past legal limits.
The Channels
Parties - Primarily the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. The rules apply to other National Party Committees - Libertarian, Constitution, Green, etc. Since all the others together rarely garner 5% of the monies, no attention is given them by anyone outside of the FEC.
PACs - A Federal Political Action Committee is a multi-candidate political committee with more than 50 contributors which has been registered for at least 6 months and has made contributions to 5 or more candidates for federal office. Because of the $5000 contribution limit from any one entity, PACs have multiplied. A labor union-favored candidate might well receive $20,000 in $5,000 contributions from the Democratic National Committee, the National Education Association's "connected PAC", the National Education Association's "unconnected PAC" and the National Education Association's "leadership PAC".
"Super PACS" - An independent PAC may raise and spend unlimited amounts. Incorporated as "independent-expenditure only committees”, they may not make contributions to candidate campaigns or parties. They may independently spend to influence an election.
Most voters see the hand of Super PACs at work in the form of negative campaign ads during election season. These ad campaigns often make claims that no candidate would dare suggest about their opponent, but since the ads come from an "independent source", the claims get made and the "out of state" Super PAC is the one "responsible" for slinging the mud.
The Citizens United case opened the door to Super PACs when the US Supreme Court ruled that the government may not prohibit unions and corporations from making independent expenditure for political purposes. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the Occupy Now folks have made "Citizens United" a public issue with the rallying cry, "A corporation is not a person,” but the parallel reminder that "a union is not a person" has yet to fall from their lips.
501(c)4s - While 501(c)3 groups like the NAACP, the National Rifle Association, Planned Parenthood, the National Right To Life Committee and the Family Research Council are barred from campaign involvement, their partner 501(c)4 entities may "educate" and "advocate" public policy positions even during election season.
As a spin-off benefit, the 501(c)4s are not required to disclose the names of their donors whereas Super PACs must publicly list donors contributing more that $200. This makes 501(c)4s the "weapon of choice" in Federal elections.
During the past election cycle, the two biggest groups together raised more funds than all the Super PACs combined. The two groups were vehicles for conservative influence: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity.
While liberals consider this "conservative" ascendency as a sign of corrupt politics, a more reasoned assessment sees the success of groups like Crossroads as a healthy balance to the hefty influence of union funds and activities on behalf of the Democrats.
Public Financing - Often a neglected source of funding, checking a box on your IRS 1040 return credits $3 toward presidential elections.This is a bookkeeping sleight of hand. The $3 contributions have never met the costs to the General Fund. Most  candidates since 1976 have accepted the funds. 
A review of how the funds are used - for the costs of the Democrat and Republican national conventions as well as some costs of national parties general election campaigns - reveals a Federal perk that has little relation to better or cleaner elections. Over $200 million can be expended in a presidential election cycle. Neither Obama or Romney accepted any Federal funds in the 2012 election. Thus they were not subject to restrictions on raising or expending private monies during the election. 
Some Simple Value Systems 
Big Money is Bad - My rich folk have "good money”; the other party's rich folk have "big money". 
Sometimes "big money" is amazingly ineffective. This year one billionaire vowed to spend $100 million of advancing a "green" agenda in the elections. By the time the "professionals" in the Democrat Party finished "educating" him, he ended up putting $1.4 million into Senate primary races where his money had little effect. 
The best way to use "big money" to influence politics is to buy a media outlet, not a politician...
Corporate Money is Bad - To Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the Occupy Now crowd, "Multi-National Corporations" are evil, and all corporate contributions or expenditures are "corrupting" the political process. Most companies would consider a ban on corporate money to be a form of taxation without representation. The Supreme Court considers corporate money to be constitutionally protected free speech.
Union Money is Bad - Not really "bad", just "specially privileged" and undemocratic. Do all the members of the NEA or the AFL-CIO really approve of their dues being used solely to advance the agenda of the Democrats?
Anonymous is Bad - In theory, yes, we should know where the money is coming from. In practice, we live in an age of "mean" politics. Where once the KKK might come knocking on your door, now the homosexual activists target individual donors, churches and businesses who vote, advocate or donate "on the wrong side of history". 
"Your Party Needs Your Contribution" - No matter how clear the call is to donate so your party can "fix what's broken in Washington" or to "prevent the barbarians" from taking over the country, this is a sales pitch. You need to consider the quality of the product you are being offered. 
Perhaps your $50 might do more to advance your values if given to an D.C. based advocacy group instead.
Ways To Move Forward
Let's grant that wise public policy on this issue is not likely to come from either the fox (the Executive branch) or the chickens in the coop (Congress). So that leaves our current practice of lawsuits which force the Judicial branch to set policy - not a good idea in the long run. This leaves the "independent commission" as an option.
A "Campaign Finance Commission" (CFC) may be convened by the Speaker of the House according to these guidelines:
1) The CFC shall have a minimum of six members including -
     a) the three youngest male members of Congress
     b) the three youngest female members of Congress
     c) the most recent former members of Congress who retired by honoring a "term limit" campaign pledge
     d) three members of the majority party who are selected by the leader of the minority party
     e) three members of the minority party who are selected by the leader of the majority party
2) The CFC shall be tasked with keeping campaign funding rules simple, fair and honest. 
3) The CFC process shall consist of sequestering the Commission until a unanimous plan is produced.
4) The CFC members will present their plan to the Congress and then do a fifty state, Town Meeting Tour to present it face-to-face to the people.
As we frequently hear on Capitol Hill, this may not be the best plan, it may not be the final plan, but it is a plan that can help move the discussion in the right direction.
  1. Knowing it is God who sets up and removes leaders, pray for the leaders God is raising up for our nation to have all the funding and resources they need. (Romans 13:1)
  2. Pray for financial corruption and unholy alliances in our political system to be exposed. (Ephesians 5:11)
  3. Pray for a renewal of integrity and humility among our national leaders, that funds entrusted to individuals and political parties would be used for the good of the nation and not for selfish gain. (Proverbs 12:22) 

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