Money Talks


Surprise, surprise: even in our McCained and Feingolded world, money still hasn't been driven out of politics. Mother Jones notes that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act "didn't quite turn off the spigot pouring special interest money into politics; in a sense, it just slightly redirected the flow—and largely, thanks to a loophole, to Democrats' advantage." You can still donate to your favorite political causes via groups called 527s, just as an earlier wave of campaign finance reform allowed us to give money to new-fangled beasts called Political Action Committees.

"Though political non-profits are not new," the article continues, "they have proliferated following the passage of BCRA as a handy way of skirting the soft-money ban. Republicans fear that the success of Democratic 527s is threatening the fund-raising advantage that the Republicans currently enjoy." Democrats like Wes Boyd of MoveOn respond that Republicans are trying to "silence" their critics. An FEC decision is pending, and tighter restrictions may be on the way.

If nothing else, I guess this lays that whole "money isn't speech" business to rest.

NEXT: Pill Poppers vs. Pain Patients

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. ANY campaign finance “reform” that passes will always be jerry-rigged to provide some sort of advantage to Democrats (who never shy or raising the money)– it would never pass otherwise (absent the support of Democrats). This is a truism so obvious by now, it seems idle to dispute it.

  2. Andrew,
    Let’s not let the Republicans off the hook so easily. Campaign reform is always going to favor the incumbents, otherwise the REpublicans wouldn’t support it either. It may favor the Democrats no, but only a year or two ago I was hearing it favored the Republicans. This is a bi-partisan sin.

  3. The Dean campaign was killed BECAUSE of the BCRA. All those donations of $10, $20 and $50 were fantastic for democracy, but they’re doomed if to win you run a negative add and then appear at the end saying “I’m Howard Dean and I supported this message.”.

    But that’s the difference between Dean and the Clintonian wing of the Democratic party. The 527 organizations can run ads and don’t have to put the face of any candidate they support because they’re prohibited from doing so. It’s nearly identical to the PAC just translated phonetically.

    A calculation must be made by political strategists to request donations to the campaign, the PAC or the 527. The Republicans are focused on the PAC and the campaign whereas the Democrats lean heavily towards the 527. The Anyone But Bush strategy works well for the 527 because you don’t care who wins, just who loses.

    Campaign Finance reform is bunk. We are better off with real-time reporting off all contributions to the PAC, the 527 or the Boris Yeltsin Vodka Fund. Report a donation, publish the donation online, then let the people, media, etc go and follow the money trail.

  4. To those of us–most of us–who want all drugs legalized, every social problem has the war on drugs as its metaphor.
    The issue isn’t whether drugs are good or bad. The issue is people want to buy them… and they will.
    The issue isn’t whether politicians are good or bad…

  5. Ruthless,

    You are a very humorous and wise individual. 🙂

  6. Andrew,

    Didn’t Republicans vote in some numbers for this legislation? Indeed, in this instance, as Democrats are the minority party in both of your portions of Congress, Republican votes were as crucial (if not more so, given what a majority party can do procedurally to fuck up legislation being through) as Democratic ones. Furthermore, did Bush accept the legislation when it came to him? You have “true believer” written all over your forehead.

  7. I supported campaign finance reform not too long ago. The Constitution doesn’t enshrine an inalienable right for candidates to whore themselves out to the highest bidder.

    But we have McCain-Feingold in place, and nonetheless Bush is poised to whore himself out for $200 million, while Kerry will whore himself out for a somewhat smaller sum. (Which is better, the cheap hooker or the high-priced one? I’ll report, you decide! 🙂

    So I figure that the only way to stop this would basically be to freeze all political speech. And since that is impossible, I reluctantly oppose most (all?) campaign finance laws.

    Now, some here will probably be upset that I oppose these laws as a matter of pragmatism rather than principle. Well, I’ll be honest, I’m all about figuring out which policies seem to make for a better world to live in. And time and time again the policy of less government seems to out-perform its opponents. If some find that unacceptable, well, deal with it.

  8. The post establishes that the current rules FAVOR Democrats– that is the contention.

    I say this is predictable, else the legislation would not have passed (even a large minority could have effectively defeated any campaign finance bill, given the way legislation has to proceed through our system).

    Republicans voted for it, largely due to McCain’s support…sadly.

  9. dlc: for your information, acronyms and names are commonly capitalized too. And was for joke.

  10. Andrew,

    “The post establishes that the current rules FAVOR Democrats– that is the contention.”

    Well, your attempt to spin it that way does at least.

    From the article:

    “Republicans fear that the success of Democratic 527s is threatening the fund-raising advantage that the Republicans currently enjoy.”

    Of course they partly currently enjoy that because of the campaign finance laws that Republicans have helped to pass.

  11. “Republicans voted for it, largely due to McCain’s support…sadly.”

    Uh huh. Because Republicans love John McCain.

  12. Pisser:

    True – good point. Sorry if I missed the joke – I didn’t get it.

  13. joe,

    You’ll find that Andrew is willing to have his ass raped by a cricket bat for Republicans; anything for the “party.” As you can see, it is parallels to the loyalty of Bolsheviks. 🙂

  14. joe

    I don’t imagine many Republican office-holders care much for McCain (although I might be surprised myself, how far that collegiality stuff goes), but I feel he has acquired a weird sort of Jimmy-Carter like living sainthood that carries at least some clout.

    When “reform” packages get passed, the rules generally favor incubents…and also nearly always contain provisions specifically intended to placate Democrats (if nothing else, nearly always a pass for organised labor).

    Indeed, that is how these things are always energised for the partisans– they are supposed to “make a difference” (eg. get Democrats elected), else why bother?

    joe: how do you like being in this thing with Jean Bart…must make you proud of yourself, huh?

  15. JB

    Joe:Democrats as Andrew:Republicans

  16. Interesting. Jesse turns the Hypocrimeter on the on some Democrats.

    Getting ready for a Kerry victory next November, o contrary one?

  17. How can you ascribe an advantage to the Democrats, when Bush has a fifty to one advantage over Kerry in terms of cash on hand? If anything, McCain Feingold is a straight jacket for the Kerry campaign, who hasnt had the time to raise the small individual hard money contributions that Bush has been aggressively raising since June.

  18. Mojo: I explained that with my two posts. There is a big difference between the funds raised by the Bush Relection campaign and the Democratic 527 organizations created to beat him.

    I’m not saying either party has an advantage. Personally I think President Bush’s warchest will carry him to victory, however if the election turns ugly and negative ads become the factor than Bush will probably lose. The Bush funds require him to put his name, face and oral approval on every ad. The 527 “ABB” ads have no such requirement.

    Last night Chris Matthews on Hardball was grilling Zach Exley of sure if Zach was there on behalf of the 501(c)3, the Voter Fund(527) or the PAC). Matthews asked Exley who was supporting and Zach had to fumble first before he backed away with the statement “Kerry is the nominee and all the Democrats are now supporting him”. He cannot say “We are supporting John Kerry”.

    527s are the rottweilers of elections.

  19. Again, advantage Bush. He can come out and directly attack Kerry. Move on can not even proclaim their rather obvious support for him. The fact remains, Bush has a staggering money advantage, much of it raised before McCain Feingold was even implemented. Quibbling about how the democrats have a loophole misses the point, since Bush has already raised close to 100 mil before the campaign even started. Now he wants the FEC to clamp down on soft money donations, not because he thinks that the democrats might have an unfair advantage, but rather so he can keep his unfair advantage and dominate the paid media with pictures of 9/11.

  20. I am quite amused by the supporters of campagn finance regulation, who fervently denied yesterday that money equals speech, now claiming with equal fervor that regulations of their funding will “silence” them.

    As is Jesse. Other (pro-regulation) posters don’t seem to get the joke.

  21. Um, nearly all the analysis I have seen demonstrates that the Dems have the harder time under BCFR because of their dependence on fat-cat zillionaires over small donors, in contrast to the Reps. At the time of debate, in the Weekly Standard, Nat’l Rev and others you heard background comments from Reps to that effect in response to 1st Ammendment gripes. Many elected Dems I think saw that but since they are self-saddled with the reformer’s mantle and a sketchy grasp on reality voted for it in a spasmodic enthusiasm. Folks don’t always do what is in their best interests… they just think they do. I hold no brief for McCain but ironically and unknowingly, he and Russ Feingold gave the Dems the biggest kick they’ve had in a long time. I’m of two minds, therefrom.

  22. I’m glad to see pisser admit he was joking. If only referring to someone as a “jew banker” were funny. What isn’t funny is that Soros, who is a U.S. citizen, beat the drum and spent money to get “campaign finance reform” passed, and is now allowing himself the privilege of funding organizations bent on defeating the president, on a level few others could do. What a Class 1 hypocrite!

    As for JB’s comments, GWB and various Republicans let the new law go into effect because they didn’t want to have to fight the next election as “enemies of reform.” They expected the SCOTUS to gut the act. When a president signs a bill he believes to be unconstitutional he has, IMHO, violated his oath of office. Bush should have vetoed the legislation, but that would have meant spending some political capital, something he is too cowardly to do.

    Those who proposed this law are as despicable as Bush & his crew, who let them have it. The justices that upheld it are just as bad.


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.