Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Campaign finance reform is going to pot - literally

From the Boston Globe: “Rich activists, hoping to sway voters, give vast sums to 527s Critics sue, allege FEC has failed to enforce law.” Much of it is old hat: now that soft money donations are limited, wealthy contributors are pouring cash into 527 advocacy groups. But what makes the article a hoot is that one major 527 contributor really loves the ganja:

Peter B. Lewis is one of America's most colorful billionaires. He is chairman of Cleveland's 26,000-employee Progressive Insurance Corp., owns one of the world's largest yachts, and is a major backer of efforts to decriminalize marijuana.

In 2000, Lewis was arrested for marijuana and hashish possession at a New Zealand airport, but the charges were dropped after Lewis contributed money to a drug-rehabilitation center, according to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In 2001, Lewis became the single largest donor to the American Civil Liberties Union, stipulating that $5 million of his $7 million gift go to the ACLU's drug-policy litigation project, which deals with drug-testing in schools and the medicinal use of marijuana. Lewis also is the largest donor to the Marijuana Policy Project, providing $485,000 to help the group advocate for the removal of criminal penalties for marijuana use, particularly for medicinal purposes.
Asked to comment on his contributions, Mr. Lewis stated “the Dude abides” then searched through his desk drawer for some Doritos.

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