John McCain

Campaign Finance Roundup

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David Tell over at the Weekly Standard does an excellent job with a maddening task: trying to sum up the state-of-the-art of campaign finance law post-McCain-Feingold. He takes on an easygoing question-and-answer format to focus on how a Feb. 18 Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision will affect "Section 527" groups, such as America Coming Together and the Media Fund, that dare to express an opinion about candidates up for election. Tell's story is too long and detailed for meaningful excerpting here, but if hearing "FEC" and "Section 527" in the same sentence doesn't send you dashing from the room, it's essential reading.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is vowing to sue the FEC if it doesn't crack down harder quicker on such blatant political speech, which, as we all were taught in grade school civics classes, it is a cherished American principle to regulate and prohibit in the sternest fashion.

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  1. McCain is probably hoping that if George Soros is comparing Bush to Hitler, he, McCain, will at least get counted as a Goering.

  2. We are a nation of frogs being slowly boiled to death…

  3. That McCain is some kinda contortionist, the way he can wrap himself in the flag while wiping his ass with the Bill Of Rights and all…

  4. I used to support McCain. I said then, and I’ll still say now, that nowhere in the Constitution is there a right to buy and sell politicians, nor is there a right to auction off Congress to the highest bidder.

    The problem is that there’s no way to get rid of these practices without something truly draconian. If you think CFR is actually working, just look at the upcoming election: Bush is expected to whore himself out for $200 million for his re-election campaign. He might as well put on fishnet stockings and a bustier and walk the streets for cash. So I oppose campaign finance laws for practical reasons, although I do so with great regret.

  5. Thoreau–You don’t need any draconian laws to stop politicians from being bought and sold. You just need to enforce the Constitution and have a limited government, in which buying the politicians does no good since they have very little real power.

  6. Glad you’ve come on over to the dark side, thoreau! 🙂 But then, this is a good illustration of why libertoids are so “utopian.” 🙂 That is, when it comes to government interference and coercion, principle and practicality aren’t so very contrary. That is, when you try to interfere with personal freedom, more bad than good usually results! If some libertoids go a bit overboard in stressing the good and ignoring the bad of eliminating state interference, giving joe an excuse to call us utopian, it’s because of a well-founded belief that principle and practicality (when the principle is freedon) generally do go hand in hand.

  7. Brian, I think you’re a bit harsh on McCain. True, I think CFR is an unconstitutional crock, and should never have become law. But now that it is law, it should be enforced. Maybe enforcing it will lead to its repeal. McCain is at least being consistent, while the Democrats who led the charge against the evils of “soft money” are now at the forefront of evading the laws they championed.

    (By the way, anyone else notice how George Soros went from the left’s poster boy for the excesses of capitalism 10-15 years ago, to a great philanthropist once he started funding lefty causes?)

    And Thoreau, it’s not really fair to tar the Bush reelection campaign with the same brush. AFAIK, he raised that money in legit, legal ways. The 527 groups, on the other hand, seem to me like clear evasions of the CFR law.

  8. PapayaSF-

    The fact that Bush’s money was legally raised only reinforces my point. No matter how many laws we write, unless we do something truly draconian there will be 100% legal ways for politicians to whore themselves out for massive amounts of cash. And since I consider truly draconian measures unacceptable, the only alternative is to abandon campaign finance laws.

    Bush is a whore. No getting around it.

  9. A friend of mine once came up with what I considered an elegant and workable campaign finance reform suggestion:

    1) Not dollar limits on contributions.
    2) All contributions publicly disclosed.
    3) Contributions only from individual citizens: no corporations, unions, PACs, or any other groups.

    I realize it’s not a pure libertarian solution, but it seems like a decent compromise to me, and certainly better than what we had either before or after McCain-Feingold.

  10. Saying that McCain gets points for consistency because he merely wants to enforce the tyrannical law he created is like saying that once a burglar has broken into a house, he has an obligation to steal something.

  11. Nick’s rich cousin, Ed Gillespie, was recently on The Daily Show. C-SPAN, The Daily Show and Real-Time are my choice of reality… Anyway, on the topic of recent political advertisements, Ed claimed that the RNC has little control over most negative campaigning as a result of the McCain-Feingold bill. I’m sure the interview is available somewhere, take note of the comments. The intent of the bill was not to bring “draconian” practices — we all know that McCain is not that kind of Republican — it was to make things more difficult to organize.. The RNC Chairman has unwittingly testified to its success.

    Purchasing television advertisements for electioneering seems to me one of the worst uses that can be made of the money. We all know that despite this bill, there will be more political advertisements this year than any reasonable dictatorship would allow. Now I agree that the law is against libertarian values, but I can’t get passionate about it. On another note, some of you do make a value judgement when ascribing Corporations the same rights as people… and, you’ll notice that we don’t allow the free speech of foreign governments through electioneering.

  12. papaya,
    I’m not so sure public disclosure is the way to go. If an anti-IRS party were to spring up, I would only support it anonymously, for fear of abuse from that agency.

  13. anon-

    Are you saying that the GOP isn’t an anti-IRS party? Shame on you!

    Seriously, though, the LP is an anti-IRS party, and they claim to respect your privacy to the fullest extent allowable by law. Of course, the fullest extend allowable by law isn’t always that full, and some people here have low opinions of the LP for various reasons. But they are most definitely an anti-IRS party, for what it’s worth.

  14. the failures of democracy can be blamed on the masses not on socalled special interest groups. I think we would have been better if mccain had stayed in nam.

  15. the failures of democracy can be blamed on the masses not on socalled special interest groups. I think we would have been better if mccain had stayed in nam.

  16. I realize that the plan could be considered less than ideal by eliminating anonymity, but otherwise it’d be impossible to enforce in any way: what would stop the Syrian Ba’ath Party from making a contribution? From a pure rights aspect, I think that is outweighed by eliminating contribution limits and banning contributions from groups, many of which are donating money that comes from people who don’t want their money used in that way.

  17. I say unlimited contributions with total & immediate disclosure, and don’t limit it to individuals. Limiting it to individuals will just bring on the scenario of corporations & other organizations ‘giving’ money to employees to make contributions.

    If a politician wants to explain why he took a contribution from some evil group, let him have at it.

    And the penalty for deceit? Harsh, very harsh.

  18. Here’s a random thought: What if members of Congress were forced to recuse themselves from any vote involving a group they received campaign contributions from? This is not a practical suggestion, but more of a thinking exercise: If such a recusal policy were in place, there might not be a quorum of either house to vote on anything.

  19. garym-

    I make no apologies for calling Bush and Kerry’s campaign funds giant bribes. That’s exactly what it is and we all know it.

    It’s just that if we try to stamp out these bribes we’ll have to also stamp out legitimate political speech. Better to let a guilty man go free than punish an innocent man. So I oppose campaign finance regulations, although I do so with great reluctance. If somebody could show me a way to put these whores out of business I’d support it in a heartbeat. But every legislator is always assuring us “Oh, don’t worry, my law will solve all these problems.” And it never does.

    Call me dishonest if you like, but I’m supporting your conclusion: That campaign finance laws should be repealed.

  20. thoreau,
    great point about how CFR has pushed down money in some areas, yet seen pop up in others(527 organizations, etc)

    You could abolish corporate personhood, eliminate corporate contributions and taxation, but hey…that’s too radical a proposition.

    Now we see McCain threatening to sue the FEC……it’s going round and round.

  21. “I used to support McCain. I said then, and I’ll still say now, that nowhere in the Constitution is there a right to buy and sell politicians, nor is there a right to auction off Congress to the highest bidder.”

    Dear Mr. Thoreau,

    being a citizen of Austria, with some life experience and knowledge of my country?s way of politicking, I can assure you that getting campaign finance from public funds, as we have here, doesn?t make our politicians and political parties look less ?bought? in the sense of being in the pocket of special interest groups like unions, farming lobbies, big pharma, etc.

    Having most campaign expenses paid out of the taxpayers pocket doesn?t hinder our parties to collect further contributions, directly and indirectly, from wealthy individuals, corporations and interest groups. For instance, the Federation of Austrian Industrialists recently put some $350,000 into a private fan club that made PR for the Austrian Treasury Secretary who, by sheer coincidence of course, happened to bring about a nice tax cut pretty soon (the corporation tax was reduced from 34% to 25% — honi soit qui mal y pense!)

  22. Regarding whether there is what thoreau calls a Constitutional right “to buy and sell politicians” or “auction Congress off to the highest bidder” — which actually means the right to express support or opposition to any candidate, without having penalties or restrictions applied by the government — that right is spelled out plainly in Amendment 1 of the Constitution. No exceptions are mentioned for anyone.

    By the same token, the Constitution guarantees the right to “turn the country over to the rich and powerful,” to “corrupt our children with hate,” to “undermine the church and family,” etc. The technique of recasting freedom of speech into a negatively loaded phrase and then declaring one’s inability to find the negative phrase in the Constitution does not establish an exception to the First Amendment.

  23. “The fact that Bush’s money was legally raised only reinforces my point. No matter how many laws we write, unless we do something truly draconian there will be 100% legal ways for politicians to whore themselves out for massive amounts of cash. And since I consider truly draconian measures unacceptable, the only alternative is to abandon campaign finance laws.”

    You do something draconian to the politician, not to the public seeking to express itself. The public doesn’t buy politicians, politicians buy the public with their own money.

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