Campaign Finance Reforms Still Don't Matter


This week, two more reasons to point and laugh at impotence of campaign finance restrictions:

1) John McCain opts out of matching funds, which would have limited his campaign spending. Though not technically hypocrisy, this does seem to go against the spirit of McCain's well-publicized disdain for the effect of private "special interest" money on politics.

2) The New York Sun's handy expose reveals undisclosed small donations totaling $118 million so far in this cycle, one quarter of the money raised.

Reporting rules are very relaxed for donations under $200. The Sun asks if large sums could be funneled in though this back door (answer: probably) and looks into the largeish number of international donations coming in through this channel.

According to an analysis being released today by a Washington think tank, the Campaign Finance Institute, Senator Obama of Illinois led the pack with such small and secret donations, pulling in about $31 million during 2007. Rep. Ron Paul ran second in small gifts, raking in more than $17 million. At the end of the year, Senator Clinton and John Edwards, who has since dropped out, were essentially tied for third in unitemized, small contributions, with each candidate raising about $11 million.

Once burned, twice shy. Hillary's campaign is incredibly careful about foreign donations:

[While] Mr. Obama's Web site allows donors to choose an address in one of 227 possible countries or territories, including Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Yemen. Mr. Paul's site is even more embracing, permitting addresses in Syria and the "Occupied Palestinian Territories…The most cautious campaign when it comes to accepting online donations from overseas seems to be that of Mrs. Clinton. Visitors to her Web site who want to list an address abroad are directed to a special page which advises that such donations are only taken by mail and that donors "must include a copy of your U.S. passport or green card."

reason on (and against) McCain-Feingold here.