Is David Trone trying to Buy Maryland's 8th Congressional District?

Democratic voters in Maryland's 8th Congressional District have decisions to make as they look to replace an incredibly successful and effective Congressperson. The first is to decide how they feel about one candidate, David Trone, apparently trying to buy a seat in Congress. While on the other end of the political spectrum it reminds some of Donald Trump trying to buy the Presidency. Both are businessmen who have used the system they now decry for their own benefit for years.

The Washington Post reports "Wine retailer David Trone... has contributed more than $150,000 to Republicans in states across the country since 2000, according to a nonpartisan site that tracks ¬money in politics. Most went to candidates and officeholders in states where he sought legislation or regulatory changes favorable to his company, Total Wine & More. Among the Republicans who received funds were Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas and North Carolina Gov. Pat ¬McCrory." The same Pat McCrory who signed anti-LGBT legislation and Greg Abbott who wants to close all Planned Parenthood sites in Texas.

Trone is spending millions of his own money trying to replace Chris Van Hollen who is running for the Senate. He is making the basis of his campaign not taking any money from PACs, lobbyists and big donors. Seems hypocritical considering he thought it was ok to influence others to build his own business. To give Trone credit he seems like a nice guy running on a very liberal agenda which is pro- LGBT, pro-women and pro-equal and human rights for all. But then so is every other Democrat in the race.

He recently took out a couple of full-page ads in the Washington Post saying he has spent $9.1 million of his own money on his campaign and complaining "unfortunately, the press and the politicians are focused on my decision to fund my own campaign. They act like it's a bad thing." He goes on to claim he had to spend all this money "because he was running against three candidates who've served 56 years in public office and another one who's been a local media celebrity for almost four decades."

It took me until seeing maybe his hundredth commercial and the full-page ads to decide it was offensive to see someone try to buy a seat in Congress. Citizens United is terrible and should be overturned. There is definitely an excess of money in politics and it is my belief we should have publicly financed campaigns. However being rich and trying to buy an office seems to hark back to the days when only landowners could vote.

Having worked in the legislative and executive branches of government as well as the non-profit sector for the last thirty-five years I can attest not every politician is swayed by PAC money or donations. Can a PAC contribution possibly help to get a hearing for your point of view, yes, but that is far from getting support for it. As a CEO of organizations that didn't have PACs my positions got hearings in Congress without one even with legislators who took PAC contributions. It was important to bring an intelligently thought out position/or piece of draft legislation to the table and highlight how voters in the District who shared the position would benefit.

Trone says "I'm self-funding because it's the right thing to do. It's better than taking money from PACs, lobbyists or big donors. It will make me a more effective Congressman." Actually who you take or don't take money from has nothing to do with how effective you will be in Congress. Effectiveness in Congress has to do with how well-crafted the legislation you introduce is; how well you understand the rules; and how well you are able to rally support from the public and negotiate with other members to support and move your legislation forward. It has never been shown self-funded politicians have better records of effectiveness than those who accepted donations.

Making blanket statements about donors, lumping them all in one basket, is wrong. Based on Trone's platform there are many PACs funded by groups with positions he believes in. Workers, women's organizations, teachers, and those pushing legislation for immigrants, and the LGBT community. Interestingly I couldn't actually find any proposed new legislation he promises to introduce on his website.

If Trone had begun his political quest on a local commission, town council, or in the State Legislature, he might have a better chance of claiming he can be effective in the Congress. Business leaders before him have found being the 'boss' in a business doesn't always equate with success in the House of Representatives. There you begin on the low end of the totem pole competing with 435 other members who want to get things done for their constituents.