In one of the passages from Wealth of Nations less frequenly quoted by free-market fans, Adam Smith wrote:
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
There's a corrolary for politicians, I think: Officeholders of opposing parties seldom agree on anything unless it shores up their mutual interests as incumbent powerholders against the general public. The phrase "broad bipartisan support" should be spinetingling. Had David Broder mulled that over, he might not have written, with apparent surprise, in today's Washington Post:
One of the unexpected results of this bipartisan excess is a resolve by senators of both parties, led by Lott, chairman of the Rules Committee, to clamp down on 527s before the next election.
John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who teamed up to sponsor the major campaign finance reform bill passed in 2002, can hardly believe the support they are getting for their new legislation restricting 527s. McCain-Feingold became law only after years of fierce battles, with Republican regulars fighting it every step of the way and some Democrats quietly hoping for its demise.
But of course, it makes perfect sense. McCain-Feingold may have been good for incumbents on net, but there was also the dicey matter of fussing with the pols' own cash flow, which made at least some nervous. No such reservation when what's at issue is only clamping down on the political speech of others. Anyone who's in the politics game is apt to have a metastasized will-to-control to begin with. Who wants all these interlopers throwing a wild card into the mix? Bonus amusement points here:
The legislation being drafted for the Senate has to walk a narrow constitutional line, because the reformers, including Lott, do not want to inhibit communication to voters by more traditional advocacy groups pushing particular issues or causes. But that's a matter of drafting, which can be solved.
Maybe it can in some ad hoc way, but can anyone give me a principled distinction here, aside from the fact that MoveOn is new and the Sierra Club is old?