Campaign Finance

Romney, Who Used to Favor Campaign Spending Caps, Now Wants to Allow Larger Direct Donations to Campaigns

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Mitt Romney thinks the Super PAC situation stinks. Here's what he said about campaign finance rules at last night's debate:

We all would like to have Super PACs disappear, to tell you the truth. Wouldn't it be nice to have people give what they would like to to campaigns and campaigns could run their own ads and take responsibility for them. But you know what, this campaign is not about ads, it's about issues.

…I would like to get rid of the campaign finance laws that were put in place. McCain-Feingold is a disaster, get rid of it. Let people make contributions they want to make to campaigns, let campaigns then take responsibility for their own words and not have this strange situation we have people out there who support us, who run ads we don't like, we would like to take off the air, they are outrageous and yet they are out there supporting us and by law we aren't allowed to talk to them.

I haven't spoken to any of the people involved in my Super PAC in months and this is outrageous. Candidates should have the responsibility and the right to manage the ads that are being run on their behalf. I think this has to change.

Romney's rhetoric is typically difficult to pin down. But his opening question—"Wouldn't it be nice to have people give what they would like to to campaigns?"—sounds an awful lot like a call for allowing unlimited donations directly to campaigns.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not quite consistent with how Romney used to feel about donations to political campaigns. In his failed 1994 Senate race against Sen. Ted Kennedy, Romney decried the influence of money on politics and the increasing amounts being spent on individual campaigns. He argued that PACs should be banned entirely—and not to make way for unlimited donations. Instead, he said he would like to see strict "campaign spending limits" on congressional campaigns 

Romney was the underdog when he railed against Sen. Kennedy's big-money campaign in 1994. But now he's the spending leader. His loss in the 2008 Republican presidential primary certainly didn't come cheap. His campaign reportedly spent about $110 million, including $45 million of his own money. At the end of 2007, the Romney campaign was spending $85,000 a day on TV ads alone. This time around, he's dramatically outspending his competitors: So far, he's spent just shy of $18 million, according to The New York Times, which is about twice as much as any other candidate. He still has more than $14 million left in the bank. 

So is Romney in favor of simply getting rid of all campaign finance restrictions? Somehow I doubt it. In last night's answer, he said, "I would like to get rid of the campaign finance laws that were put in place." [bold added] Which leaves the door open for a future President Romney to put in place brand new ones. 

NEXT: A. Barton Hinkle on Ending the Drug War and Helping Its Casualties

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  1. Honestly, what pisses me off about campaign spending limits and the like is how they are premised off the idea that people are too stupid to vote correctly.

    And, here’s the funny things: Political Science has, in fact, studied the effect of spending money. Past gaining name recognition, it doesn’t matter. You can spend a billion convincing people to like you or 25 million. If people think you’re a dick, they will still think that.

    The other justification- that it could lead to corruption- doesn’t hold much water with me. I think that you should allow unlimited donations, and just make it illegal not to disclose political donations. Thus, if Candidate X recieves 100 million from Rich Dude Y, then when Candidate X pardons Rich Dude Y’s brother, we can all know that Candidate X is an asshole scumbag.

    1. “Thus, if Candidate X recieves 100 million from Rich Dude Y, then when Candidate X pardons Rich Dude Y’s brother, we can all know that Candidate X is an asshole scumbag.”

      I wish algebra was this entertaining in high school.

    2. problem is Candidate X cannot pardon anyone until he becomes Elected Official X. Kinda late to realize he’s an asshole. There is always the next election but unseating incumbents is only slightly less futile than fighting a sunrise.

  2. Romney is a pandering asshole. I seriously doubt he is doing anything but acting in his own interest and has no interest in free speech.

    That said, isn’t is really fucking stupid on Reason’s part to criticize him for changing his position in favor of one something they support? Winning an argument means getting people to change their minds. How exactly is that supposed to happen when the people who do change their minds are immediately accused of being hypocrites?

    1. Hey, John- we liked libertarianism before it was cool.

      Want a PBR?

    2. If you are changing your mind on a subject it helps to say that you have changed your mind when you give your new opinion.

      Pretending like it was always your opinion makes you look like an ass.

      That’s why Romney looks like such an ass.

      1. That is what politicians do. But beyond that what is the point of having a purity test. Romney is probably saying this for the basest of reasons. Or maybe he had a real change of heart and realized at some point in the last 17 years that maybe these laws are stupid and counter productive. I don’t know and neither does Reason.

        The point is that you should applaud politicians when they say things that you agree with. You don’t help your cause by punishing all those who convert for their former anti social activities.

        1. The point is that you should applaud politicians when they say things that you agree with.

          Only if they can be believed.

          In the case of Romney there is every indication that his heartfelt beliefs change depending upon his audience, which makes him just another pandering politician.

          1. Only if they can be believed.

            In other words only if they are sufficiently pure. That is not a political movement that is a religion.

            1. Do you believe everything everybody says? We’ve got a guy with no doiscernable priniciples beyond ‘I am wonderful’ who will say whatever he thinks will get him elected. If he thinks he needs to say something else tomorrow, why should I applaud that he’s saying what I want to hear today? If he wants us to believe he’s serious, he needs to act on it. Judging by past actions, Mittens isn’t going to do anything for me on this issue.

              1. No I generally don’t believe politicians. But this is politics. People more often than not do the right thing for the wrong reason. The main way to win in politics is to make it in politicians best interests to support your cause. If you only accept people who feel have converted for the right reasons, you are just making yourself into a religion rather than a political movement and pretty much guaranteeing yourself to be a loser.

            2. It’s about principles.
              If a person has principles then you can reasonably guess how they will act.
              Even if you disagree with the principles, at least the person is predictable.
              Without any principles there’s no telling what they’ll do.

              1. “If a person has principles then you can reasonably guess how they will act.”

                No you can’t. Circumstances often trump principles. There is one principle that is an almost sure way to predict how someone will act, self preservation.

                1. You can when compared to someone who has no principles.
                  You’re just being an ass.

                2. I wouldn’t trust him until I saw it in action. Anybody can say anything – words are wind. If he gets elected, and acts consistently on this newfound love of liberty, then I will praise that aspect of his transformation.

                  Until that time, I just think he’s a lying sack of shit.

                  1. I am not saying I trust him either. I don’t. But I am not going to criticize him for saying something I agree with. That is weapons grade stupid.

                    1. But I am not going to criticize him for saying something I agree with.

                      He is being criticized not for what he said, but for the apparent lack of integrity that it implies when compared to what he has said in the past.

            3. Only if they can be believed.

              In other words only if they are sufficiently pure.

              Not at all. If they admit they are changing their mind, and explain why, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

              If they don’t do that, I’ll go with past experience, and conclude that they are lying.

              1. So they have to fully repent and sufficiently prostrate themselves to the congregation. Got it RC.

                Again, this is politics not religion. You take your victories where they come.

                1. Rock on John! You kicked that straw man’s ass!

      2. If you are changing your mind on a subject it helps to say that you have changed your mind when you give your new opinion.

        From 18 years ago?

        18 years ago I was a diehard liberal who believed in government control of every economic resource. Do I have to preface every libertarian position I take now with that disclaimer?

        1. Do I have to preface every libertarian position I take now with that disclaimer?
          ————————-
          in the new political world order, where any change of heart on any issue involving any span of time implies that you are a flip-flopper, inconsistent, or pandering, the answer appears to be “yes”.

    3. Romney is a pandering asshole.

      You probably shouldn’t talk that way about the guy you’re going to be trying to convince everyone here is somehow better for Obama after he wins the GOP nomination.

      1. The groundhogs in my backyard are better than Obama. It won’t take much to push Mittens over Obummer.

        1. Do your groundhogs have a webpage? I would like to learn more about their positions.

    4. Because we don’t believe he has changed his mind because as some guy once said he is a “pandering asshole.”

    5. I predict, if given the opportunity, you will vote for Romney in 2012.

      I also predict Romney will change his mind when it suits him politically, not because he became principled all of a sudden.

    6. The problem is you can’t trust a word he says. It doesn’t matter than he’s currently taking the libertarian position on campaign finance. His history shows that a few months from now, with a different audience, he could change his mind again.

      1. Then make that point another way or let the other side make it. Taken on its face, this post is criticizing Romney for changing his position to something that Reason agrees with and in fact feels very strongly about. That is stupid. I would think Reason would want otherwise recalcitrant politicians to change their views closer to those of Reasons. Who cares if they are not doing it for the right reasons?

        1. I’ve said this before too, John. Reason does this all the time. Especially against judges where they say “Sure you gave the decision we wanted this time, but why didn’t say the same thing back then?” Sure Romney is a political weather vane and we should always be wary of politicians making promises, but we should be happy when people change their minds to join our side.

          1. The problem, of course, is that he can go the other way or an entirely new (and bad) way. That’s kind of the point in not liking the unprincipled, like Romney and our president.

            1. Then don’t like him. But don’t like him for the right reasons. Disliking him because he changed to your point of view on something but didn’t do so with sufficient purity is just stupid.

              1. My point is that he can’t be relied to stay still on any issue, let alone this one. I don’t like him for that reason most of all. He’s as difficult to pin down as Obama was in 2008.

                No more mystery candidates!

                1. “My point is that he can’t be relied to stay still on any issue”

                  All candidates are mystery candidates. IF they are totally unwilling to change their views on anything regardless of circumstances, they are fanatics. I don’t want them in office either.

                  And Romney and all politicians can be relied upon to do exactly what is in their best interests. The trick is to make supporting your issues in their interest.

                  1. Obviously, I have no objection to someone changing their mind, especially when they’re convinced to see things my way. In theory, that was what Bob Barr did, and I accepted that enough to vote for him, though I doubt I’d have done it if he’d said the same things while running as a GOP candidate.

      2. His history shows that a few months from now, with a different audience, he could change his mind again.

        A few months? That’s overstating it a bit.

        If he enacts a restrictive campaign finance policy the GOP will revolt like they revolted against Bush on immigration and TARP. He knows it’s not in his interest to do that.

    7. Winning an argument means getting people to change their minds.

      hahahahahahaha, do you know where you are?

      1. I forget sometimes Tulpa.

  3. So Romney found a topic he hadn’t flip flopped on and he… flip flopped on it.

    1. If politicians are never allowed to change their positions, how is any side of a contentious issue ever supposed to win?

      Take for example guns. A lot of politicians who were committed gun grabbers in the 1990s have since realized the issue is a dead loser and changed their position. Are they flip floppers? Sure. Are they hypocrites? Sure. But what difference does it make. Getting people to give up their views and come to your side is called winning. It doesn’t matter that they are doing it out of self preservation.

      I suspect the same is going to start to be true with campaign finance laws. Politicians are going to slowly start to realize their interests are better served by getting rid of them. And as that happens we will see more and more flip floppers like Romney. And that will be a good thing.

      1. If they change their position depending upon their audience, then there is no way to predict what their position will be when it comes time for them to act.

        1. That is not what is happening hear. It is not as if Romney said one thing on Tuesday and another on Wednesday. No, he said something in 1994 and has changed his position since then. That is hardly changing by audience.

          1. Actually it is. In 1994 the audience was Massachusetts, today it is the entire nation.

            1. In 1994 I was telling girls I was pro-choice to get laid. I guess that makes me a panderer now because I tell general audiences I’m pro-life?

      2. “Getting people to give up their views and come to your side is called winning. It doesn’t matter that they are doing it out of self preservation.”

        The problem is that they aren’t giving up their views and coming to our side; they’re biting their tongues until they feel confident that they can get their way.

        Romney is no different. He wants you to think that he’s had a change of heart, but once in power he’ll show his true colors just like Obama, Bush, and almost every other politician out there.

        1. “The problem is that they aren’t giving up their views and coming to our side; they’re biting their tongues until they feel confident that they can get their way.”

          How do you know? See my gun example above. It is not that those politicians don’t still hate guns. They do. It is just they realize it is not in their best interests to do so. That is pretty much what winning looks like in politics. You don’t win by converting the faithful. You win by making it in people’s self interest to support your cause.

          1. I disagree with your stated definition of “winning”. It’s all opinion based; mine isn’t worth any more than yours, and it’s a subjective thing. But I don’t consider it “winning” to have a bunch of anti-gun politicians sitting around, just biding their time to strike. That’s a draw, at best.

            It’s only winning if those people lose elections to those who have consistently, and over many, many years, held outspoken pro-gun positions. That way I’m not constantly worried about the snake in the grass about to bite me if I ever drop my guard for a second.

            1. “But I don’t consider it “winning” to have a bunch of anti-gun politicians sitting around, just biding their time to strike. That’s a draw, at best.”

              No it is not a draw. It is winning because those guys can’t act on their views and have to support yours or face losing an election. That is winning. You are never going to convert everyone to your side of an issue. And you are never going to elect enough true believers on any issue to make a change. What you have to do is have a few true believers and enough votes to make life really hard for those who don’t believe so they change sides. That is winning.

        2. Bush lost his own party when he tried to flipflop on issues they liked his old positions on. TARP, immigration, etc.

          1. Bush was twice elected. His party bailed when they knew they couldn’t vote for him again.

  4. As a sitting president, Obama will likely raise and spend the most money on his campaign. The dude could take over the airwaves for the next ten months, and I’m still voting against him.

    1. “Morbo congratulates our gargantuan cyborg president. May death come swiftly to his enemies.”

      1. There’s the media speaking truth to power again!

    2. But think of all the jobs that kind of spending will create. Its for the people!

    3. That’s because you’re a cold unfeeling bastard with no empathy for the 99%.

      1. Is that still going on? Stupid and irrelevant, yet won’t die. I may have underestimated the stupidity of the participants.

        1. Occupy Houston, which nobody here gives a shit about, is still around. I drive by them every morning. They never had more than 20 people, most of whom look like actual hobos. It really is just a couple of people camping.

          1. Stupid, pointless, and a fraud. Lovely.

          2. Our weather hasn’t been severe enough to drive them away yet.

        2. I haven’t seen any of the Occupy Tampa kids for more than a week. I guess 50 degree temps and beautiful sunny days are just too much for them to handle.

          1. Where are they, downtown? Are you sure they aren’t just scouts for the new Rays stadium?

    4. Racist son of a bitch. I bet falling asleep covered in .50 BMG rounds and the blood of Mexican children feels good.

  5. I’m beginning to lose what little faith I had in the idea that replacing President Not My Fault with Mittens will be in any way an improvement over our current lot.

    Maybe it’s best to get some more Rand Pauls in Congress instead of worrying about this stupid popularity contest.

    1. SCOTUS! Else, who cares?

    2. I don’t have any faith in that either. But it won’t be because Romney actually came around to the right position on campaign finance.

  6. Anti-Paul activists are assholes. Who knew?
    http://i.imgur.com/RD12b.png

    1. Anti-Paul activistsPeople on Facebook are assholes.

      That is pretty shady though.

      1. True dat. In the several Conservative Voter groups wherein I participate I’ve been told that Dr. Paul is a raving anti-Semite who will implement Sharia, a racist who will allow doctors to deny life-saving treatment based upon their patient’s ethnicity (a policy doctors are, apparently, eager to implement), and a naive coward who would hold endless focus groups to gauge the level of public support before retaliating against the evil Iranians after they (apparently having advanced in their delivery technology by several generations) attack CONUS with thermonuclear weapons. Also, he wants to legalize heroine and crack. Conversely, from my lefty friends, I hear a non-stop litany of Ron Paul wants to ban abortion, revoke gay-marriage rights, let KORPARAYSHUNS enslave us all, and (immediately following his inauguration) eliminate Social Security/Medicare/Food Stamps/Unemployment Insurance/FDA/EPA/Dept. of Education. Also, NEWSLETTERZZZ!!

        1. Dont forget eliminating all the national parks.

    2. Some people have become very comfortable with the boot on their neck. So much so that they fear the boot might go away, and they will have to face the world without its comforting weight.

  7. I think that you should allow unlimited donations, and just make it illegal not to disclose political donations.

    Telling candidates that they must disclose contributions, so the government can use that information against them in alleging acts of corruption, is a violation of the Fifth amendments of both the candidates and their donors:

    “nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”

    It’s also a violation of the First Amendment rights of both the candidates and their donors for the government to collect information about who is engaging in speech, so that it can potentially be used to retaliate against those speakers:

    “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”

    it is abridging the right of freedom of speech to compel speech to be non-anonymous

    1. I’m with protefeed.

      What do these campaign reform people think is going to happen (assuming they aren’t doing it out of partisanship) if they get rid of all the money? Do they think that our politics will suddenly become clean and shiny and all above board?

      The campaign funding apparatus didn’t create corruption, corrupt people people set it up for themselves as a convenience. Campaign reformers put the cart before the horse because they either don’t care about the horse or deep down know that they can’t do anything about the horse.

      1. You know the old saying, SF. Corporate money corrupts, and absolute corporate money corrupts absolutely. It’s pretty clear what the problem with our system is.

      2. They don’t know what will happen. It will just make them feel better. And what will happen is just what you say. That and it will just make for a better world for political insiders who know how to game the system.

        That is what they have done now. You can’t run for office without hiring a serious law firm to make sure you don’t go to jail for violating the campaign finance laws.

        1. What is needed is for someone prominent to run for office who, instead of hiring lawyers, absolutely refuses to comply with any campaign finance laws whatsoever, on the grounds these laws are unconstitutional, and dares the government to try to lock them up.

          1. The government would throw the book at them. And the media, who have every interest to limit other people’s speech, would portray him as a crook “guilty of felonies”.

            The poor bastard would be sharing a cell with Berny Maddoff within a year and probably have a longer sentence.

    2. “it is abridging the right of freedom of speech to compel speech to be non-anonymous”

      Hello? It’s the government. Since when do they care about the constitution?

    3. The First Amendment argument is decent; the Fifth Amendment one is batty. Just because your license plate can be used to link you to a crime doesn’t make auto registration “self-incrimination”.

      I think the First Amendment one is flawed too, but it’s not as bad. Money isn’t speech, it’s merely necessary for speech, like ink and keyboards are necessary for the press to exist. The govt can’t ban or limit ink and keyboards, but state govts can certainly require inkmakers to disclose who they’re selling ink to.

      1. the Fifth Amendment one is batty. Just because your license plate can be used to link you to a crime doesn’t make auto registration “self-incrimination”

        Would you also say it is “batty” for the government to tell you that, prior to posting on Hit and Run or anywhere else on the internet, you must include a valid email address, residence address, and phone number so the government can come track you down and prosecute you and use whatever you post as evidence against you?

        How is that not violating the Fifth Amendment? If you agree that that is a violation of your rights, then how is that any different from the government demanding that if you give money to someone to make political speech, you must inform the government of that donation, with potential criminal charges against you if you give “too much” money?

        Is it your point that you think the Fifth Amendment itself is “batty”?

        1. The first example is likely to have a chilling effect on speech. It’s more a violation of the first than the fifth.

          The Fifth Amendment only becomes active once the crime in question has already been committed, or a crime is alleged by the state to have been committed. None of the BoR is intended to be a “right to commit crimes without consequence”, which some libertarians seem to think they are.

          I mean, your argument leads to some preposterous conclusions. I guess having to keep a record of your property deed at the township office is a violation of the 5th also, since the police might use this information as evidence if they find, for instance, a murder weapon on your property.

  8. So the early-1990s statements attached to some candidates are more relevant than those attached to others’?

    1. What did Romney have a newsletter or something?

      1. I have never been much of a DC Comics fan, so can someone please tell me when Superman started needing a gun to fight evil?

        1. Dammit how did that turn into a reply to?

  9. I’ll see you’re Super(PAC)man, Suderman; and I’ll raise you one Super Pac-man.

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