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Saturday, February 16, 2008

The campaign finance spectacle 


There is no issue that twists up politicians and pundits more than campaign finance reform. Sometimes it is hilarious to watch. Let us count the ways.

Conservatives deeply resent John McCain for sponsoring and promoting the McCain-Feingold Act, and some of them may not vote in the fall election because of it. The McCain-Feingold Act, however, is popular with the political center and the pundocracy, so McCain's identification with it may help the Republicans retain control of the White House.

The press loves McCain-Feingold, in no small part because it carves out special privileges for the mainstream media. See, for example, this extended advertisement for Barack Obama's supposed bipartisan appeal. The New York Times is especially hilarious on this point, insofar as the law allows its controlling stockholders, who assigned themselves shares with voting power out of proportion with ownership percentage, to campaign for Democrats on its editorial page to the great disadvantage of other rich people who do not own supervoting stock in a major newspaper.

This puts the Times in the curious position of denouncing Barack Obama for backpedaling on his pledge to take public money (and therefore subject himself to the limits in federal campaign finance law). This should not actually surprise us, for the one thing the Times enjoys more than electing Democrats is an election in which the candidates actually need the mainstream media.

Oliver Willis sees nothing funny about demands that Obama stick to his pledge:

Don't do it.
Please don't do it.
Seriously. Don't. Do. It.

Why? Because for the first time in memory Democrats have a huge fundraising advantage over the Republicans. Whatever the merits of McCain-Feingold, this is not, apparently, the year for Democrats to adhere to its limitations.

McCain-Feingold, therefore, has become a lever in the hands of John McCain, prying open the door so that all of us, even the normally blinkered New York Times, can see that the left-wing candidate might not be a perfectly principled politician after all.

Republicans who are grumpy at McCain for campaign finance regulation must be very confused.

Meanwhile, what is the press going to do about this? Since John McCain has a bit of a conflict, some journalist with an impish streak should ask Russ Feingold what he thinks of Senator Obama's wiggle-waffle.

4 Comments:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Feb 16, 06:39:00 PM:

"Money finds a way."

The idea that you can separate money from politics is specious, however well intended it may be, and, as you pointed out, it's not always well intended.

McCain-Feingold is a travesty against the first amendment. There is no limit to how far these restrictions can go in the name of fairness.  

By Blogger Cas, at Sat Feb 16, 07:17:00 PM:

"Because for the first time in memory Democrats have a huge fundraising advantage over the Republicans."
If the democrats do not use that money for either the Obama or Clinton campaign, they will just use it for the congessional and senate races that will also be decided this November, thus ensuring that they retain control over Congress, regardless of who wins the White House  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 17, 02:04:00 AM:

Both parties have been asking Ron Paul how he is raising so much campaign money.

Dave  

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