Campaign finance canard

Heard something distressing on All Things Considered earlier, a line which has made its rounds before. Basically, the idea is that liberal 527 and 501(c)3 organizations represent the damning loophole left open in the McCain-Feingold law. Much has been made of George Soros' 10 million pledge to defeat President Bush, and how liberals, who never had much money to begin with have had to go all sneaky now that their noble idea has ended up screwing them. And, of course, that's true to some extent. That's why people are excited about Howard Dean.

But on an ethical level, we need to draw a line between the activities of anti-Bush 527s and what campaign finance reform intends to change about the system. While devilishly hard to legislate, the spirit of campaign finance reform, and laws like McCain Feingold, is to eliminate the quid-pro-quo rampant in the election funding game, i.e., Rupert Murdoch directs Newscorp to give the Republicans a couple million and they just somehow end up reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in deregulation from administration appointed telecom officials. That is a whole lot different from Soros giving millions of dollars to organizations who produce negative campaigns about George Bush. There's no clear path for how Soros is maximizing his financial self-interest by having George Bush NOT in the White House.

Liberals were incensed that crazy conservatives bjillionaires like Dick Scaife spent millions upon millions of dollars to create nonprofits, magazines and action groups dedicated to spreading nastiness about Bill Clinton, but they never held it up as a violation of campaign finance ethics.

McCain-Feingold has a whole lot of issues, and I hope we don't think the campaign finance battle is taken care of now that the Supreme Court has signed off on the law. There is still much work to be done, many loopholes to be closed, and far more innovative thinking to be put into practice. But asserting that the biggest problem in campaign finance laws are groups who truly have no more specific agenda than opposing the current administration is not the way to go.


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