A key part of Donald Trump’s campaign to become the Republican presidential nominee was based on claiming to self-fund his campaign while calling his opponents “puppets” of big contributors. But the 2016 Republican platform takes some of the most extreme positions on money in politics, measures that would force almost all politicians to seek out their own personal puppet masters.
First, the GOP platform advocates “raising or repealing contribution limits” on donations directly to politicians.
Currently individuals can give only $2,700 per election directly to a candidate. Primaries count as separate elections, so you can give Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns $5,400 – half for the primary and half for the general elections.
Thanks to Citizens United and related rulings, you can also — if you can afford to — give unlimited amounts to Super PACs that are theoretically uncoordinated with campaigns.
Repealing contribution limits on direct donations to candidates would remove one of the few limits on money in politics that Citizens United left standing. Hedge fund manager Robert Mercer could give $17 million to Republican politicians rather than to Super PACs supporting them, while his fellow hedge fund manager George Soros could give $12 million to Democratic politicians.
Additionally, the Republican platform opposes “requiring private organizations to publicly disclose their donors to the government.” This is a call to make sure that so-called “dark money” stays dark.
Right now, up to 50 percent of expenditures by nonprofit corporations like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS or the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity can go toward politics. And they don’t have to publicly disclose the identity of their donors, so no one except the Internal Revenue Service knows who’s funding them.
The GOP platform is a pre-emptive strike against bills like the 2010 DISCLOSE Act, which would have required nonprofit corporations to disclose their larger contributions.
Finally, the platform says Republicans oppose “forced funding of political candidates,” which seems to cover any kind of public funding for campaigns.
So, did Trump ever actually care about the problem of big money politics? Based on the platform, the answer is, no, Trump never cared, and in fact, he’ll make the situation far worse.