Campaign finance reports reveal special interest groups working to elect candidates. Their efforts to mold a candidate’s thinking appear to be working.
Why do people make political campaign contributions? I try to be optimistic. I’m willing to believe that people have sincerely-held beliefs.
But when you look under the covers, I find myself in agreement with Lily Tomlin, who quipped “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”
A few days ago I showed how the campaign finance report for David Dennis, a candidate for Sedgwick County Commission, was full of contributions from people who regularly ask government for special favors and subsidy, people who campaigned for the Wichita city sales tax, and Democrats who are ideologically presupposed to higher taxes.1 In other words, people who believe they know better than you how to spend your money, and believe David Dennis will give them more to spend.
But I didn’t go far enough. The Wichita Eagle’s Daniel Salazar found this: “He [Dennis] received at least $4,814 in direct donations from board members of the Sedgwick County Zoological Society.”2
This is classic and explicit special interest group behavior. The group members contribute a little bit to a candidate in expectation of reaping big benefits for their special interest.
Economists call this rent seeking, defined as “An attempt to obtain economic rent (i.e., the portion of income paid to a factor of production in excess of what is needed to keep it employed in its current use) by manipulating the social or political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by creating new wealth.”3 That obscure term has been partially supplanted by a term more readily understood: cronyism.
And it appears to be working. Salazar’s article quotes Dennis: “I don’t think it’s (funding) adequate based on what I’ve learned. I think we’re going to have to do a complete review of what’s required to run the zoo.”4
There it is. I wonder who David Dennis consulted for his research?
- Weeks, Bob. A look at a David Dennis campaign finance report. Available at wichitaliberty.org/sedgwick-county-government/look-david-dennis-campaign-finance-report/. ↩
- Salazar, Daniel. Dennis draws more donations than Peterjohn, including from zoo board members. Wichita Eagle, July 27, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article92135002.html. ↩
- Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking ↩
- ibid. ↩