Dozens of former members of Congress and failed candidates are collectively hoarding close to $100 million in their dusty old campaign coffers. Nine of them have $1 million or more just sitting in their accounts.
Our friend Dave Levinthal at the Center for Public Integrity mined federal campaign finance disclosures and gave the Loop a peek at what he found: surplus funds.
Levinthal asked some of the former pols why they have pocketed the money instead of, say, donating it to a charity.
Former senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and former congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla.) — both now lobbyists (of course) — suggested that they were holding on to the money in case they ever decide to run for office again. Foley, who was run out of town in 2006 after sending sexually suggestive messages to underage congressional pages, told Levinthal that he never thought he’d run again but that people tell him, “Your public service was sterling aside from a bump in the road.” (Really?)
Several charities weighed in on how far that money could go.
“Donating surplus money of this nature to a credible, charitable organization only makes sense,” said Randi Law, a spokeswoman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Unused funds, sitting idle, do nothing to perpetuate the cycle of support that America relies on.”
Federal Election Commission rules allow former lawmakers to give their unused funds to charities, political parties or candidates, or to pay consultants, legal fees and other campaign debt — but do not allow personal use.
So when you can’t spend those hard-earned dollars (the party circuit is exhausting) on a fine Lamborghini or a trip to Bali, what’s a former politician to do but stash the cash away, just in case public service comes calling again?
Odds are 200-1 that George Clooney will be the next president of the United States.
But if you want to make that long-shot bet, the only option is online through overseas brokers.
Nevada state Sen. Tick Segerblom (D) is reintroducing a bill to change that, just in time for the ramp-up to the 2016 presidential campaign. Segerblom would allow gamblers in Las Vegas to put money down on political candidates, the way they do on sports teams. Politics is a kind of spectator sport, so we get it.
The effort is part of a larger movement afoot in Vegas to stop online gambling because it draws people away from casinos.
“You can bet on the Internet offshore, so it’s crazy not to be able to bet in Nevada,” Segerblom told the Loop on Thursday. “We always want to be number one. When people think of gambling, we want them to think of Vegas.”
Critics of the bill — it passed the state Senate but never passed the state Assembly last year — argued that the bets might be used to influence or throw elections. Others thought it would dishonor or embarrass Vegas, which, Segerblom notes, “is crazy, given we’re considered Sin City.”
British gambling sites have the 2016 presidential odds posted. A popular one, Ladbrokes, has Hillary Clinton as the favorite, at 6-4. Wanna place a riskier bet? Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is 80-1.
“I’m not a Hillary person,” Segerblom said, “but I’d have to put my money on Hillary.”
Turns out its not just presidential campaigns that begin immediately after the last one ends.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) just won reelection last fall, but Democrats in the Garden State are apparently already lining up to succeed him.
Philip Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, who was the national Democrats’ chief fundraiser during the 2008 presidential election and served as President Obama’s top envoy in Germany from August 2009 through May 2013, is now thinking he might run for governor in 2017. Because why not?
The Star-Ledger, which first reported the news, puts it in context:
“And it comes as Democrats — stymied and overshadowed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie for most of the last five years — believe they’re near shoo-ins to reclaim the governor’s office in a post-Christie world. Though the next race for governor isn’t scheduled until 2017, it could come sooner if Christie leaves early to run for president.”
Murphy’s name had been floated for a challenge to Christie in 2013, but now, with the field wide open, he’s considering it more seriously.
Ambassador to elected public office isn’t a common career trajectory, though Murphy would not be the first diplomat-turned-politician. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), for instance, served as the U.S. ambassador in India and to the United Nations before he became a senator.
The State Department’s e-mail system, BlackBerrys and such went down for about three hours Wednesday — and that wasn’t the first time.
We were quick to blame the Chinese, but apparently it wasn’t their fault.
“At this point, we do not believe yesterday’s outage was due to any malicious activity and we are investigating the specific cause,” said State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach. This situation apparently happens from time to time, but not for that length.
Must have been painful to have to talk to people on an old-fashioned telephone or — yikes! — even in person. The outage “led to some awkward situations where people had to talk to each other face to face,” a source said.
Speaking of Chinese hackers, this week’s Loop quote honors go to FBI Director James Comey. In addition to his joshing Wednesday to the somewhat humor-deprived Senate Judiciary Committee about potheads, Comey had the following to say after a question about thefts of trade secrets by hackers.
“I’ve learned . . . there are two kinds of big companies in the United States: those who have been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t yet know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.”
’Bout sums it up.