Campaign Ads Aren't Supposed to Turn a Profit


In a Washington Times op-ed piece, economist John Lott and former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith portray Air America as a scheme to avoid campaign finance restrictions by disguising long commercials for Democratic candidates as talk radio programming. "With $41 million in losses since 2004, and $9.8 million owed just to Robert Glaser, RealNetworks' chairman, Democrats who bankrolled this 'company' weren't so much investors as campaign contributors," they write. "With McCain-Feingold's 'hard money' donation limits of $2,000 per candidate and 'soft money' limits to party campaign committees of $57,500, there is no way that Mr. Glaser or other wealthy Democratic donors could have legally given such large sums directly to Democrats."

This end run around McCain-Feingold would, like the NRA's foray into talk radio, be understandable, even admirable, if it weren't for the fact that the people responsible for it supposedly favor the restrictions they're dodging (just as 527 mega-donor George Soros supposedly wants to stop rich guys like himself from having a disproportionate influence on elections). Instead of demanding that this gaping loophole be closed, Lott and Smith suggest tearing it wide enough to accommodate anyone who has a political message to communicate: "We'll call it the First Amendment solution…Deregulate the system, let the voters hear what people (even those with 'big money') have to say, and trust the voters to choose wisely. The alternative is to extend restrictions to the press."