Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Campaign Financing

This commentary is being written before the results of the 2009 elections are known. Therefore the opinions expressed are not predicated on either elation or disappointment with the election outcomes. Rather I am concerned and amazed by the hypocrisy that surrounds our campaign financing process and the so-called reforms which have supposedly cleaned up that process.

Last year you may remember Barack Obama's willingness to advocate campaign spending limits until it came time to actually live by campaign spending limits. The McCain campaign took the Federal financing and lived under the limits it imposed. The Obama campaign, after promising to abide by the same restrictions, decided to refuse public financing and instead raise and spend unlimited amounts on the presidential general election. The result was that McCain struggled to match both the organization and advertising resources that were available to Obama and was heavily outspent. Not only was the disparity of resources a factor in McCain's defeat, but the Obama team had the audacity to claim that their refusal to live under the spending ceilings imposed by participation in the Federal program had struck a blow for future public financing. Huh?

That pattern of liberals claiming to support campaign finance reform and then refusing to participate when real campaigns get underway repeats itself again in this year's elections. Take Jon Corzine's gubernatorial campaign in New Jersey, please. The state supposedly has a restriction of $11.5 million for spending on statewide elections. Corzine's Republican opponent has lived by the ceiling. Corzine, however, exploited a loophole created by a long-standing U.S. Supreme Court decision that permits a rich individual to spend as much of his own money as he wants on politicking regardless of the limits. Corzine used his own fortune to spend upwards of $30 million largely on negative advertising aimed at his Republican opponent. There's nothing illegal in what he has done, but it's moral grounding is highly debatable. And again we have a situation where the intent of the rules doesn't matter. And the result is that those who live by the rules are disadvantaged by the rules.

The reason this is so egregious is that liberals have had such a holier than thou attitude about campaign reform. They have passed laws that have placed more and more restrictions on what can be done and even said in political campaigns. And then they have a record of exploiting the laws they pass by utilizing loopholes, illegality and litigation. Voter fraud has been rampant despite their new laws. The courts too often have become the deciders of election outcomes. And it is all because the win at any price is a clear liberal mantra for liberal campaigns.

The way we now finance politics is disturbing and dysfunctional. All of the reforms of the past have really deformed the system. Today both parties seek out wealthy candidates who can self finance their campaigns. The result is that there is a greater reliance on wealth in politics than ever before. That reliance in turn creates government structures, particularly legislative bodies, that are increasingly the province of the rich. The shameful pattern of liberals creating an exploitable campaign financing system and calling it reform is one of the underlying reasons for the inability of politicians to really work on the issues of concern for the American people. The elections of 2009, no matter what the outcome, will be a confirmation the the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

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