From time to time I’ve donated money to various causes or candidates. On occasion, the sum has been substantial for me (but plainly middle-of-the-pack for the candidate). Even for my biggest donations, I’ve gotten some fairly cheesy certificates, computer-generated letters, maybe a lapel pin. Not much more.
Well, fine, presumably I’m donating to the guy because I like his policies. But what if I have a particular policy that I’d like him to advance that isn’t yet on his platform, or that he’s not pushing as much as I should?
We hear about “buying access,” or about the “powerful donors” to whom various candidates are beholden. How much do you have to give before anyone gives a hoot about your actual opinions (as opposed to just cashing your checks and numbering you among the foot soldiers)?
E.g.: Let’s say I have extremely strong feelings on a subject that is (1) conceivably compatible with the candidate’s/party’s overall political philosophy; but (2) not currently being talked about or pushed by him or his opponent (maybe I want to bolster free trade with Paraguay, or increase research funding for oil shale to energy conversion, or stop ethnic warfare in Sudan – to take a few examples that could, in theory, not clash too much with most candidate’s baseline agenda, but probably aren’t currently prominent on their radar screen either).
I don’t want the ego trip of sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom, don’t particularly want an autographed photo; I just want to determine the level at which my contributions are significant enough that someone of moderate influence within the machine will say “Hey, maybe we ought to give some thought to Paraguay, some of our substantial donors are all worked up about it . . .” or “Let’s be careful not to P.O. the oil shale guys.” Or, failing that, just the level at which they actually pretend to ask/care about my opinions (from time to time I’ve gotten “surveys” from candidates I don’t even support, but I have little confidence in their methodology: “Do you (1) support; (2) strongly support; or (3) hysterically support the President’s valiant efforts to keep all Americans safe from terror?”).
Alternatively, what is the level of donation at which people are able to “negotiate,” e.g., call up a party and say “I was thinking of giving $X to The Candidate, but first I’d like to make sure he shares my positions on the Sudan . . . ?”
I’m trying to figure out how the system, as currently configured, works, and what the price of real “influence” is, so no need to tell me how corrupt it is or that influence peddling is wrong (I agree). And assume for purposes of this question that the donor has the ability lawfully to direct as much money as is necessary toward the candidate or a suitable proxy (closely-affiliated PAC, etc.).