Campaign Finance Smurf Style


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No, not the cute cartoon characters – Smurf is a term drug gangs use for the people who smuggle their cash. Recently, Election Watch released a bombshell report on Smurfing in election finance. 

The average American makes 1.4 political donations per year. Smurfs are both real people and fake identities that make between 1,000 and 6,000 donations per year. Typically, between 1 cent and $100 per donation. PACs can then bundle these micro donations.

Smurfs are not some far away imaginary thing. We have them in Bridgeport (not surprisingly) New Haven, Norwich, Hamden, Westport, etc. The top 20 Connecticut Smurfs donated $92,205 in 2021-22, during the off-year elections. All but two of these Smurfs are listed as retired or not employed, although two work at colleges (one at Yale and the other at Three Rivers Community College). 

An analysis prepared by Dominic Rapini, 2022 candidate for the Secretary of the State, looked at a longer time frame and found that 18 active Connecticut donors, with an average age of 77, have given $2.6 million – an average of 8,383 donations each over a span from 4-23 years.

While most Smurfing seems to benefit Act Blue and liberal candidates, an 81-year-old Republican donor from Stamford has allegedly made 22,132 donations totaling $257,000 over twelve years

Although some Smurfs are real people, identity theft also seems to play a role, particularly with older people. Credit card accounts are opened in someone’s name under a different address and the bills are paid with illicit funds, so the person whose ID was used is unaware of the illicit contributions.

We are likely headed for the most contentious election since 1876. Perhaps, we will even, once again, get a candidate accused of being a drunken syphilitic. 

Trust in our system is breaking down under the weight of the evidence that both political parties seem to believe that the ends justify the means and that rules are just for the little people. While we can hope that the FBI will get to the bottom of this before the 2024 elections, as citizens, we have to inform ourselves and call out injustice and corruption. If you want to do your own research, the Federal Election Commission maintains a database of campaign donations. It would be nice if we could at least believe that we know who is funding the campaigns.