Won't Somebody Please Think of the Candidates?

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The wise men (and women) of the New York Times editorial board look upon the decline of Watergate-era campaign finance reforms and rejoice! Wait, no, sorry—I rejoice. The NYT reacts like a Viking widow tossing herself on the beach and clutching sand as her husband's corpse is doused and torched.

Public financing had worked well for decades, inviting fresh arrays of candidates. But it was left half-dead in 2004 when President Bush and Senator John Kerry declined the $44 million subsidy for the presidential primaries. This freed them to raise more than $200 million each in private, unlimited money. They did opt for public subsidies in the general election, accepting $74 million each as the spending limit. But that formula is expected to be extinct in 2008 as the finalists wage a far more expensive campaign — one that could hit $1 billion.

There's a tiny fact left out here—the first 2004 candidate to withdraw from public financing was Howard Dean. He had realized that the limitations of public financing would actually make his campaign much less democratic and responsive to his supporters than scrapping the subsidy and opening the online floodgates. He discovered that citizens, given a streamlined donation process and a candidate/cause that inspires them, can vastly out-donate bundlers and "special interests."

The breakdown of the public system need not have happened if Congress had acted to update the formula to keep pace with campaign inflation. Larger spending limits and subsidies are needed, along with a more generous checkoff donation than the current $3 per taxpayer.

What a terrific solution! Hey, I'm having trouble downloading the new Warcraft mod to play on my abacus; perhaps I need more expensive beads?

Seriously, the Watergate campaign finance rules were always lousy. They led directly to the culture of Bush pioneers and union bundlers that so terrify CFR nags. Every attempt to "clean up" the system with regulation leads to another loophole—*cough* 527s *cough*—that then has to be regulated so that our system can finally be clean. The pattern of reform-loophole-crisis-reform never becomes obvious to NYT-style reformers.

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  1. Wiegel, you got it man. Shit like this

    “What a terrific solution! Hey, I’m having trouble downloading the new Warcraft mod to play on my abacus; perhaps I need more expensive beads?”

    Gold man. Fucking gold.

  2. Somebody left a tag open

  3. there.

  4. Speaking as a former fan of these “campaign finance reform” schemes, I can’t figure out why these guys don’t get it: the harder you make it for candidates to get financing, the more powerful you make the financiers.

  5. Brian24:

    Check out howierichexposed.com

    and then say it again with a straight face.

  6. Public financing had worked well for decades

    HAHAHAHA Wow… just wow

  7. GOP4Ever,

    What am I supposed to get from that site? Looks like some guy pushing statewide amendments who keeps losing, if I’m reading the site right. Not sure how that relates to my comment.

  8. Public financing had worked well for decades, inviting fresh arrays of candidates.

    That is pretty funny. I would love to see the edition of the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage in which one can find a tortured definition of the word well that proclaims unfettered growth of government a positive. The word fresh does not immediately come to mind when I think of intellectually decrepit candidates like Byrd and Kennedy either.

    There has been a guy named Bush or Clinton in the White House since 19-fucking-81 and we are supposed to believe that there is a fresh array of candidates? There is a high likelihood that another guy named Clinton is going to win in 2008 in no small part thanks to these laws.

  9. There is a high likelihood that another guy named Clinton is going to win in 2008 in no small part thanks to these laws.
    Shouldn’t that be gal vice guy?

  10. A friend of mine once made a nice, simple, fair proposal for CFR: 1) No contribution limits. 2) Full disclosure of all contributions on a website. 3) Contributions can only be made by individual citizens: no corporations, unions, PACs, etc.

  11. A friend of mine once made a nice, simple, fair proposal for CFR: 1) No contribution limits. 2) Full disclosure of all contributions on a website. 3) Contributions can only be made by individual citizens: no corporations, unions, PACs, etc.

    Nope, too bloody rational. It will never fly.

  12. Shouldn’t that be gal vice guy?

    Only when she starts exhibiting a few more feminine traits. Artie swears he killed a guy like her in Korea.

  13. Not every CFR fan thinks the 527 is a loophole. Or that it needs closing. It actually is the logical outgrowth of the Court’s opinion that led to CFR and is one of the main reasons that the CFR does not violate free speech.

    I could not tell where you came down on 527s, or if you were being sarcastic.

  14. …along with a more generous checkoff donation than the current $3 per taxpayer.

    Aha! Finally, I have an excuse to use this little bit of trivia:

    Back in March, I sent a letter to Warren Buffett, asking him if he checks that $3 box on his personal 1040. He sent back a reply saying he did not, but would if the number was higher.

    So, make of that what you will.

  15. PapayaSF,

    A friend of mine once made a nice, simple, fair proposal for CFR: 1) No contribution limits. 2) Full disclosure of all contributions on a website. 3) Contributions can only be made by individual citizens: no corporations, unions, PACs, etc.

    G. Gordon Liddy used to advocate the same thing on his radio show, well without the corporation ban, IIRC.

    I happen to be in the camp of no limits and public disclosure. (that is a period at the end)

    BTW, I used to be in league with the advocates of what is now CFR, but I did not even agree with them then. When I would ask, “why do politicians need welfare” they would almost always respond with some nonsense about ‘corporate welfare is worse’, or some other non sequitur. Their arguments just created more complicated schemes to “make things fair”.

    BTW, PACs would probably disappear, or no longer be a factor, under unrestricted open financing reform as they became popular under that first wave of ‘reform’. IIRC, they were created then.

    Well, the PACs will probably still be around because people are used to them. The same way rebates remained after price controls were lifted and ‘benefits’ instead of salary remain long after wage controls were lifted.

  16. David Wiegel:

    You had me at:

    “The NYT reacts like a Viking widow tossing herself on the beach and clutching sand as her husband’s corpse is doused and torched.”

    But after:

    “What a terrific solution! Hey, I’m having trouble downloading the new Warcraft mod to play on my abacus; perhaps I need more expensive beads?”

    I cordially invite you to take a bow.

  17. Reminder: The checkoff amount has already gone from $1.00 to $3.00 (up by 300%) without any sign of improvement.

    And I particularly admire the statement (lie) on the Form 1040 that says public funding of elections doesn’t change the amount of taxes collected.

  18. This whole check-off thing is one place where I wouldn’t mind seeing some slippery-slope effects. Imagine further applications of the check-off principle:

    “Do you want to set aside $3.00 from your tax payment to pay off the following groups of voters out of the public treasury:

    “Farmers Yes No
    Seniors Yes No
    Public school administrators Yes No
    ATF agents Yes No
    Miscellaneous riff raff Yes No

    “If you don’t want the money to go to any of these groups, please cut your money into pieces and mail us the pieces.”

  19. What’s all this full disclosure crap? I thought this was supposed to be a free country. Who or what I contribute money to is none of your fucking business. Fortunately, the scotus has a little more sense on this issue. If you want full disclosure, you better pass a law banning discrimination based on political affiliation first.

  20. Brian24:

    As my good friend Andy Dufrane once said to the warden at Shawshank, “How can you possibly be so obtuse?”

    HowieRichexposed.com hilights more than a dozen states that have figured out who Howard Rich is and what he’s about, and are defeating his schemes in landslides and kicking his skinny Libertarian ass right back to NYC. Howie can give all he wants (at least legally). Local voters can also sniff him out and reject him, which is the point.

    Sorry you failed reading comp in your expensive, useless Christian private school.

    UV

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