“What’s it going to take?” asked Lianne Kowiak, the mother of a 19-year-old North Carolina college student who was fatally beaten as part of a fraternity hazing ritual in 2008. She was referring to Congress’ inaction when it comes to passing anti-hazing legislation.
In 2012, Kowiak stood next to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) at a press conference where the latter announced she’d be introducing federal legislation that would make students convicted of a hazing crime ineligible for federal student aid. But Wilson has since backed off from that promise, and some speculate that it’s because of pressure from the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee, FSPAC or FratPAC, for short.
In the 2012 election cycle, FratPAC disclosed $466,346 in expenditures to the FEC, and so far it has spent $127,150 in 2013 [see: FEC search]. This includes over $200,000 in contributions to federal candidates for public office, but only $1,000 to Rep. Wilson’s campaign. In contrast, according to FEC reports, Lianne Kowiak contributed exactly $0 to any candidate campaign, choosing instead to participate in politics the old fashioned way: grassroots lobbying. As the two compete for representation, it’s easy to imagine that with hundreds of thousands of dollars at its disposal, FratPAC is likely to gain more traction with lawmakers.
Is that unfair? Some might say no. FratPAC describes itself as “the largest PAC focused solely on higher education issues,” and it represents dozens of organizations of college students. It abides by FEC regulations and discloses information on all of its donors, who in turn abide by the $5,000 limit on individual contributions to a PAC. In other words, FratPAC exercises its legal right to influence political outcomes using money earned from its membership. And at $1,000, it’s hardly fair to say that FratPAC is drowning Rep. Wilson in special interest cash.
But there’s still an obvious problem here. FratPAC’s list of donors include the VP of Rolls Royce North America, lobbyists from the influential Patton Boggs firm, and several high-ranking executives and CEOs. It’s no wonder they’re able to raise and spend the kind of money that candidates for Congress need to win elections. Against this kind of consolidated wealth, and in a system where politicians are professional fund raisers first and legislators second, an ordinary constituent doesn’t stand a chance.
As Rep. Wilson shrugs off her promise to introduce anti-hazing legislation, she is co-sponsoring a bill that would give multimillion dollar tax breaks to the organizations represented by FratPAC. Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, Kowiak has tried to reach out to Rep. Wilson about her inaction since the press conference, but has not had any of her calls returned. Shocker.
original via Rootstrikers.org