Three Cheers for Bumbling Millionaires!

|

The Cato Institute's Ed Crane makes a point, re: Connecticut, that I haven't seen anyone else make, even though it's obvious: If Ned Lamont was not a millionaire, he could not have defeated Joe Lieberman, even though any anti-war candidate on an even playing field could have done the deed.

This anti-war election is directly analogous to my late friend Gene McCarthy's race for the presidency in 1968. Gene used six-figure contributions from wealthy liberals like Stewart Mott who opposed the war in Vietnam to fund a campaign that ousted a sitting president from his own party. Gene often said that had the '74 amendments to the FECA been in place in '68, he would not have run. Campaign finance laws should not have the power to change American history. But they do. Give everyone the "loophole" of being able to spend as much of their own money to promote their political beliefs and we'll throw a remarkable number of incumbents out of office. And with good candidates instead of bumbling millionaires.

Even if, as Crane points out, this was already proved by Gene McCarthy, it would be intuitively true. CFR advocates would argue that limitless campaign donations would just allow incumbents to build larger war chests. But the passion would be on the side of challengers and their donors; witness how much money George Soros gave to Democrats in 2004 versus how many any Republican gave to his entrenched party. Macy Hanson took the temperature of the new "campaign finance reform" wisdom in July.

NEXT: Do You Like to Gamble, Eddie? Gamble Money on Pool Games?

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 Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. No question under the current campaign finance laws McCarthy would have never made it. Under the old system the country got McCarthy, Goldwater and McGovern as insurgent candidates. Under the new system the country gets egomanical milionaires like Perot, Bloomberg, Corzine and Lamont. Tell me again how CFR is supposed to make politics so much better?

  2. Under the new system the country gets egomanical milionaires like Perot, Bloomberg, Corzine and Lamont. Tell me again how CFR is supposed to make politics so much better?

    Egomanical millionaire candidates are more amusing.

  3. As someone once said “There are rich assholes and poor assholes…but at least the rich ones can buy their own drinks”.

    CFR won’t do a thing about removing aholism from politics…Voters (and nonVoters) get the pols they deserve.

  4. I can’t fathom how anyone was ever fooled into believing that CFR isn’t just protection for incumbents.

  5. I don’t know, other-Mark. Usually, some site links to any post on campain finance reform and we get half a dozen drop-in visits from people who think we’re Tools of Man for not wanting CFR. If they come by, maybe ask them? 🙂

  6. In California, prominent incumbents can always raise millions of dollars, regardless of campaign finance laws. The only serious insurgent candidate in recent California history was Ron Unz, who challenged Governor Pete Wilson in the Republican primary.

    As a protest against Wilson’s tax hikes and support for gun control, Unz received 34% of the vote. But his $2 million did not go as far in California as Lamont’s $3 million went in Connecticut. We need smaller states – in more than one sense.

  7. I think I may have posted here my solution that neither commandeers resources nor limits freedom of speech:

    Conduct all elections via closed caucus. Nobody is eligible for election who has campaigned (even merely announcing candidacy) prior to the caucus.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.