Last week, Joe Biden came to Ketchum. As the Mountain Express noted in its coverage of the event, the fundraiser drew “a pair of low-key protestors” and a sign saying “Biden 4 Sale.” We, both 20-something active voters who care deeply about the future of this country, were those protestors.
We want to make it clear that we were not protesting Joe Biden’s candidacy, but the premise of this event, which granted access exclusively to individuals willing to pay $2,800. That sum just so happens to be the maximum legal contribution to a presidential primary campaign. In other words, Mr. Biden flew into the Wood River Valley not to meet (or listen to) Idaho voters. He did not attempt to help, or even speak to, ordinary Idahoans. Instead, he came solely to meet with a very select group of moneyed individuals behind closed doors before quickly jetting out.
Unfortunately, such campaign tactics are not limited to Mr. Biden but are widespread across both parties. Some candidates, however, are working to change this status quo.
Thankfully, campaign contributions are legally capped at $2,800, and we do support an individual’s right to donate that amount. However, donating $2,800 (or any other amount) in one fell swoop should not a represent a price tag for meeting, and interacting with, a presidential candidate—or anyone else down the ballot—as it did with Mr. Biden here in Ketchum.
A common myth claims that candidates cannot fund their campaigns without holding this type of expensive, exclusive fundraiser. Yet Mr. Biden’s two highest-polling rivals, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have both sworn off holding any private fundraisers, instead focusing their campaigns on large rallies open to the public and urging their supporters to make small donations online. To be clear, the point of this opinion is not to advocate for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as candidates to the presidency, but rather to use their campaigns as an example of how big-dollar donations are not the only way to fund a campaign.
Despite opting out of the lucrative type of gathering that Mr. Biden held here in Ketchum, Mr. Sanders raised $18 million in the second quarter of 2019 while Ms. Warren raised $19.2 million in that same cycle. Contrasting those numbers with the $22 million that Mr. Biden raised proves that major presidential campaigns can flourish without closed-door fundraisers.
While almost all Democrats brand themselves as being “for the people” and deplore the influence of big money in politics, most, such as Mr. Biden, do not have the integrity to actually put their words into practice. It’s time for voters to hold candidates accountable when choosing whom to support. It’s time for candidates to stop selling themselves to the highest bidders. And it’s far past time to reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics by eliminating ticketed political fundraisers.
Nikos Biggs-Chiropolos is a resident of Weekapaug, R.I., and Francesca Ractliffe is a resident of Washington, D.C.