Legalized Bribery: Group Linked To House Republican Leadership Offers Campaign Ads For Key Votes

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)

The YG Network, a secret-money outside political group run by former aides to House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), launched a new radio ad campaign today designed to reward Republican Members of Congress who back Cantor and the party’s leadership on key votes. Politico explains:

The YG Network is seeking to “leverage the floor schedule and votes scheduled by Cantor to help members at home,” an aide said. If a member — specifically, an ally of Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — votes for a leadership priority, they can look forward to an ad in their district.

The YG Network hopes the effort becomes “another tool in the belt to call attention to members and help encourage cohesion on difficult-to-whip votes,” the aide said. Leadership is not permitted to offer anything in exchange for a vote.

Listen to an ad on behalf of Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO):

Essentially, YG Network is saying that it will reward members who vote as they wish with “independent” expenditures on their behalf. Because the 501(c)(4) tax-exempt group is technically independent of Cantor, it can provide a significant carrot that the Republican Leader cannot offer himself.

While likely legal, Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center told ThinkProgress “many would characterize the way Washington politics has long worked as ‘legalized bribery.'” He observed that this is exactly what the 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court made possible by its Citizens United ruling:

When you allow unlimited special interest money in politics, this type of behavior should be expected. Criticism is fair, but never the less, its predictable. This is the world that this Supreme Court majority has given us with the Citizens United decision. It’s troubling, but entirely predictable.

Even more troubling is the likelihood of conversations behind closed doors — threats of huge corporate-funded independent spending campaigns made [for those who don’t act in the corporation’s interest on a given piece of legislation]. And much of it, we will never hear about.

Ryan warns that he expects lobbyists will meet with legislators and say, “you saw what we did to so-and-so,” referring to a lawmaker who did not behave in the interest of the lobbyist’s client. “Do you want that to happen to you?” Ryan asked.