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


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.