The self-proclaimed Party of the Little People is rolling in cash, and Democrats are positively gloating. "The strength of the small donor has helped level the financial playing field with the Bush campaign," Mary Beth Cahill, Sen. John Kerry's campaign manager, crowed last week.
Just who are these "small donors" -- these ordinary Americans, these average Joes and Janes, filling the Democratic Party's coffers?
They are regular folks such as Beth Dozoretz, Washington doyenne and suspected facilitator of the infamous Marc Rich pardon under the Clinton administration, and Bernie Schwartz, former CEO of the disgraced Loral Corp., which paid $20 million in fines for its too-cozy relations with China that apparently endangered national security under the Clinton administration. This year, for their prodigious giving habits, Dozoretz was designated a Democratic National Committee "trustee" and Schwartz was named a DNC "patriot."
(The Democrats, by the way, insisted on concealing the names of these "trustees" and "patriots" until the Washington Post shamed them into disclosing their identities.)
They are joined by typical donors such as Rick Yi, an Asian-American businessman and former Kerry fund-raising vice chairman who passed the plate to his girlfriend (whose immigrant status and donor eligibility were immediately suspicious) and to old pals such as Chun Jae Yong, the recently arrested son of a disgraced former South Korean president. Yong faces charges of tax evasion on $14 million in inheritance money. While the Kerry campaign has returned Yong's money, both Kerry and the Democratic Party have held on to an estimated $500,000 in Yi-raised funding.
And then there are common Democrat givers such as Connie Milstein. She is just like you and me. If you happen to be the pampered heir to a multibillion-dollar real estate fortune in New York City. Milstein calls herself "an ordinary Park Avenue matron." Really. She is just your usual elbow-rubbing, partisan fundraiser/philanthropist/business mogul next door.
During the 1999-2000 election cycle alone, Milstein contributed at least $932,515 to various Democratic party soft money accounts, and spread another $40,000 in hard money donations to various candidates and political committees. In the fall of 2000, Milstein did what any regular Democrat donor would do: She flew herself to Milwaukee and bribed homeless people to vote for Al Gore in exchange for cigarettes. Milstein was caught on video by local ABC affiliate WISN-TV toting bags of cancer sticks for vagrants outside the Milwaukee Rescue Mission.
Then chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee's Major Supporters Committee, Milstein told the TV station she was an official representative of the Gore campaign and "was asked to come down and ring doorbells, go to shelters, see if I can get as many people as I could out to the polls."
It was just your run-of-the-mill campaign to smoke out (er, get out) the vote. Honest.
Wisconsin outlaws the procurement of votes with gifts worth more than $1. It's a felony. But what average Democrat donor lets a little thing like illegality get in the way? Milstein received a flimsy slap on the wrist and a puny $5,000 civil fine. Big whoop. She probably drops that much in one afternoon at Cristophe's (he's the high-priced barber of other ordinary Democrat folks with ordinary hair such as John Kerry-Heinz and Bill Clinton).
After the smokes-for-votes debacle, Milstein went right back to raising money for the Party of the Little People. And the party gladly accepted. In 2001, Milstein -- known campaign finance con artist -- gave $50,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). In 2002, Milstein donated $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), $50,000 to the DCCC, and $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In 2003, she donated $25,000 to the DNC and another $25,000 to the DCCC, in addition to $19,000 in hard money donations to congressional and presidential candidates, including Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman and John Kerry. In 2004, Milstein has given at least $4,000 to the Friends of Hillary and $1,000 to the DCCC.
So, let us hail the diversity of everyday Democrat donors: The pardon-pushing socialite. The Communist-coddling corporate sellout. The reckless Asian-American rainmaker. And the nicotine-stained heiress/almost-felon who keeps on giving.
It's a bankroll that looks like America. Really.