Politics

Why You Won't Know for Months (If Ever) Who Bankrolled Conventions

New rules allow for exclusive funding from private donors, with almost no oversight

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions gets a preview of the stage before the opening of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Monday. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Both Republicans and Democrats have spent a lot of time this year campaigning against big money in politics.  

But thanks to a two-year-old change in federal rules, both parties are expected for the first time in decades to rely almost exclusively on donations from billionaires, corporate lobbyists and super PACs to pay for their nominating conventions — starting with the big party the GOP will kick off in Cleveland Monday afternoon — according to a report published in Time magazine.  

Neither party will have to disclose anytime soon, if ever, who is footing the bill.  

“It’s a significant change,” Lawrence Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, told the magazine. “We are at a real crossroads.”  

Congress in 2014 cut public funding for conventions and significantly increased the amount that individual mega-donors could give to national parties. But it failed to address a loophole that allowed corporations, lobbying firms, super PACs, and special interest groups to skirt rules prohibiting them from donating to conventions and from giving unlimited amounts through special, nonprofit committees, which are not bound by normal disclosure rules, Time reported.  

The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, eliminated convention fundraising restrictions imposed on the party by Barack Obama during his presidential campaign in 2008. That decision means Philadelphia, where the Democrats meet July 25-28, will be the first Democratic convention in years to receive money from both lobbyists and corporations.

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