No Love For McCain-Feingold


Ramesh Ponnuru argues that Mitt Romney, the Frank Abagnale Jr. of the '08 race, flip-flopped on campaign finance reform.

In his 1994 race, Romney came out for banning political action committees, limiting spending on federal races (something the Supreme Court has not allowed), and opposed allowing larger contributions. All told, those positions place him to the left of McCain-Feingold, which doubled the allowable size of individual donations to candidates. In his 2002 race, he took the position that campaign contributions should be taxed at a 10 percent race, with the proceeds going to public funding of all campaigns.

Rotten stuff, and made worse by Romney's Friday speech to CPAC:

To me, a fundamental principle of democracy is at stake. It is the people who are sovereign in America, not a few folks in black robes. Judges add things that aren't in the Constitution, and they take away things that are in the Constitution. In that regard, they let the campaign finance lobby take away First Amendment rights. If I'm president, I will fight to repeal McCain-Feingold.

It certainly seems like just another Romney flip-flop, as Matt Yglesias suggests. But can we give Romney the benefit of the doubt. I just filed a Reason piece noting that the utter failure of McCain-Feingold to live up to its lofty goals (google around for what McCain said—it's hilarious) has dramatically restructured the "clean campaign" debate. Campaign finance laws that were sacrosanct a few cycles ago, like public financing, have lost public support in a world where 1) contribution limits have been raised, 2) soft money can go to 527s and 3) ordinary people can bundle money online for their candidates. That third change has had the biggest impact, as no-hope candidates like Howard Dean, Jim Webb, and Pennsylvania's Diana Irey (the challenger to John Murtha) were turned into contenders not because of public financing, but because of online donations from the grassroots. It's possible that Romney used to think we could trust the government to level the campaign finance playing field and has now seen the error of his ways.

That won't prevent me from using the Flipper pic again, obviously.