Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Dog Bites Man; E.J. Dionne wants more Campaign Finance Reforms

E. J. Dionne today celebrates the $100 campaign donor:

“The small-donor uprising, which began in the 2004 campaign, could fundamentally alter the direction of American politics without any changes in the law.”

But, of course, liberals can’t be liberals without getting government even more involved:

“But if Congress took some modest steps, it could ensure this revolution's success and do so in a way that even judicial conservatives could accept.”

These “modest” steps include:

“A big part of that fix should be to offer large matches of public funds -- perhaps $5 for every dollar raised privately -- but only for contributions of $100 or less. The aim should be to give candidates strong new incentives to raise small money rather than big money. Congress should give tax credits of up to $100 for political contributions and consider vouchers of, say, $25 that every registered voter could direct toward the campaign of his or her choice.”

I am philosophically opposed to public finance so Mr. Dionne and I are just going to have to disagree on this. And I’m not sure what the point of all this is – is his complaint that campaigns cost too much? Then rearranging the money sources doesn’t seem to change that dynamic. Or is he complaining that Big Donors have too much influence? Well, it would be nice if the money-corrupts crowd in the House and Senate would identify who among them has been so corrupted. Otherwise, it’s tough to see why an individual giving $25,000 is any more “corrupting” than a union leader delivering hundreds of bodies for campaign work.

Also not addressed by Mr. Dionne is the unintended consequence of campaigns starting so much earlier because of all the fundraising required. With campaign contributions limited, it simply takes that much longer to raise the cash needed to run a campaign.

Finally, Mr. Dionne continues with this complete miscast of a recent Supreme Court decision:

“The court's recent 5 to 4 decision eviscerating Congress's efforts to regulate the flow of corporate and union cash into campaign activities will require reformers to think anew.”

This is a reference to the recent Wisconsin Right to Life decision. The Wisconsin Right to Life organization is not a corporation in the usual business sense (incorporated for entity structure purposes only) and it is not a union. It was pouring no cash into any campaign. It merely wanted to encourage fellow Wisconsin citizens to contact their two Senators to urge an up-and-down vote on judicial nominees. In doing so it would have named Russ Feingold by name and Russ Feingold was running for re-election. Seriously – can anyone offer a well-reasoned argument on why WRTL should have been allowed to name Herb Kohl but not Russ Feingold…or why citizens in general should not be allowed to name their elected officials in certain media in the days and weeks leading up to an election?

Of course, much of the criticism for this decision is coming from the print media (e.g: E. J. Dionne) which enjoys many privileges (especially press access), can and does make a lot of money running campaign ads (unrestricted as to when they run) and, of course, can print anything they want as news or opinion – using all the names they want – without being subject to federal government interference…you know, because of the First Amendment.

I'm not convinced that he's correct that the $100 donor became popular in 2004. I believe that George W. Bush got the bulk of the funds for his 2000 campaign as smaller donations.
I agree - I remember a big deal being made about percetage of funds coming from small donors and the GOP led on that score in 2000
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