Money In Politics--Tim Gill
Imagine if the following biographical sketch referred to a Christian, conservative businessperson's influence on Colorado politics:
Tim Gill, the 53-year-old founder of the desktop software firm Quark, became a force in Colorado politics two years ago when he and three other wealthy residents spent $2 million to help install a Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature for the first time in decades.The focus should not be on Gill himself, or his specific issues. He is an ordinary citizen and entitled not only to his opinions on issues that affect him and those around him but also perfectly free to support those opinions with campaign donations and political backing. The fact that he is politically liberal seems to excuse the inordinate amount of control via spending power that one person can wield on a small political scene. In other words, a George Soros for Colorado.
This year, Gill has dropped almost $5 million so far on state election campaigns - more than any other individual in Colorado.
Nearly half that amount has gone to the group sponsoring Referendum I, the Nov. 7 ballot initiative that would allow gay couples to register as domestic partners and obtain many rights and responsibilities given to married couples.
The rest was given mostly to independent political groups that support Democrats - including gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter, congressional candidates Ed Perlmutter and Angie Paccione and numerous state legislative hopefuls.
"I have never seen in Colorado politics in the 30-some odd years where I've been active . . . any individual involved to the degree that Tim Gill is," said political consultant Katy Atkinson, a registered Republican who works with both sides of the aisle on ballot measures.
"Should he choose to, he can shape any part of Colorado public policy he wants to."
Gill's personal philanthropy is laudable, but the story seems to blur the line between private philanthropy and political campaign contributions, which regardless of intentions on either the part of the giver or the recipient is not philanthropy but simply power politics. Prominent wealthy conservatives rarely receive positive recognition of their contributions, and in fact are usually demonized when they put their money behind ballot initiatives or political candidates as the "special interests" that liberals get so worked-up about each election cycle. Apparently Gill does not represent a "special interest" but rather good-natured Colorado philanthropy and largesse. Should Colorado's future be decided by a handful of extremely wealthy and extremely liberal individuals like Gill? Under the cover of campaign finance reform and the infamous 527s it spawned, it sure looks like it will.