Boycott Campaign Donations!

Howard Schultz, the chairman and chief executive of Starbucks, has gone public with his frustration with Washington. As Joe Nocera tells the story in his August 12 NY Times column,

Schultz thinks the country should go on strike against its politicians. “The fundamental problem,” he said, “is that the lens through which Congress approaches issues is re-election. The lifeblood of their re-election campaigns is political contributions.” Schultz wants his countrymen — big donors and small; corporations and unions — to stop making political contributions in presidential and Congressional campaigns. … “What is it going to take for Washington to listen to us?” The answer now seemed obvious: money. “It is a sad state of affairs that the only thing they’ll listen to is money,” he acknowledged.

Mr. Schultz has the diagnosis right, but his prescription is flawed. Most of the contributions to political campaigns are coming from big donors, to whose money the politicians are listening all too closely. Those donors are quite satisfied with this arrangement; why would they have the slightest interest in a donation boycott?

If small donors were to “go on strike” by withholding their contributions, the only effect—and it would be a small one—would be to magnify the influence of the big donors.

[Somehow this post remained in draft status until today. I hope it’s better late than never. —hr]

About Hamilton Richards

He retired in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. These days he volunteers technical support for Citizens' Climate Lobby (Austin chapter), Common Ground for Texans, (, Integrity Texas (, Austin Rowing Club, and several friends.
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