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Free Minds & Free Markets

Lies of the Ethics Industry

How the champions of "good government" suppress speech and sow cynicism

Our 21st century politics might be regarded as an ethical golden age—at least in contrast to the corruption of the 19th century, when senators were on railroad payrolls and urban machines pilfered public treasuries. Yet according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, only 22 percent of citizens now trust government  "almost always or most of the time."

Ironically, the trust deficit is partly a result of the very transparency rules adopted to encourage confidence in government. Enacted after some idiots in Richard Nixon's White House broke into the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee—apparently guided by the aphorism "nothing's too cheap to steal"—transparency laws were supposed to shine light on the influence of cash. Which they did. But they also left an even bigger impression that money is the root of all public policy evil.

Four groups now work to convince us we have the worst government money can buy: (1) an ethics industry spawned in Washington by Watergate, which features nonprofits lobbying for regulation of speech they don't like; (2) journalists who collude with ethics purveyors, writing cheap-and-easy stories fitting a corruption narrative they create; (3) politicians, especially Democratic Progressive Era throwbacks, who think evil-doing can be stopped with new and better rules and who pander to the ethics industry, the media, and (ironically) to citizens convinced that Democrats are just as sleazy as Republicans; and (4) citizens, frustrated by the budget-busting consequences of the free lunches we accept from politicians.

The usual suspects will be familiar to viewers of TV news features devoted to topics like “keeping them honest” and “it’s your money.” A self-described citizens’ lobby, Common Cause, was founded in 1970. It spawned a series of other “Goo-Goo” (good government) nonprofits, including Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen in 1971; the Center for Responsive Politics in 1982, which massages finance records from candidate and PAC reports and feeds the information to friendly journalists who repeat “follow the money” as a mantra; and the Center for Public Integrity, created in 1989 by former 60 Minutes producer Charles Lewis, who launched investigative studies that focused on money as a one-size-fits-all explanation for bad politicians and policy.

The Goo-Goos reflect the Progressive Era faith that non-partisan elites, armed with ever-expanding rules and great expertise, can serve stupid people better than greedy elected officials can. And to make matters worse, every one of their failures to legislate political morality has only encouraged ethics-mongers to propose new-and-better “reforms.” Common Cause and its sister organizations want to limit political speech that they disapprove of—i.e., speech by evil corporations. And these crusading groups all share a common cause: Goo-Goo self-perpetuation. After all, those press release writers have mouths to feed, too.

Anyone in a college journalism program during the past several decades has been advised to “follow the money” as a key to political behavior. With that limited wisdom, a young reporter quickly learns she can make the front page with a story suggesting a money-policy nexus.

Assisting journalists in these exposés of political cash are their friends in the ethics industry, ready to supply “studies” and “reports,” which often mis-aggregate donations and expenditures (figures lie just like politicians do, and liars frequently employ figures). The Goo-Goos are always prepared with sky-is-falling quotes about the dire consequences of money impinging on democracy.

What never seems to occur to journalists—especially those in the non-real world of editorial boards—is that their own publishers spend unlimited cash to speak, cash they’ve accepted from their advertisers, who usually happen to be big bad corporations.

With progressivism still their dominant theology, Democrats constantly campaign for more “reform” of money in politics, occasionally joined by “maverick” Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). But just like religious Republicans who get caught in the wrong beds or bathrooms, Democrats pay the hypocrisy price when they’re discovered with cash in their freezers or embarrassing gifts from criminals.

The Democratic-progressive dream is public financing of elections, an incumbent protection racket that would allow them to wage permanent campaigns with taxpayer-funded congressional staffs—all while appearing to equalize spending for electoral opponents, courtesy of your tax dollars.

Finally, the public’s disappointment with government can be traced to the most likely suspects of all: the public itself. Dangerously armed with a willingness to suspend belief in the law of supply and demand, the people are always eager for a free lunch of entitlement spending, while for dessert they blast politicians for running up giant deficits.

The thus-embattled citizen then turns on the TV and reacts with fury to stories by cable-babblers, pandering to their audience of political spectators with pretensions of keeping those sleazy pols honest.

Lost in this televised Kabuki theater is any serious attempt to address the really big public policy problems facing the country, including massive entitlement payouts for the elderly, the bipartisan jobs program known as national defense, and gigantic interest payments on the national debt. Who actually believes that removing money from politics will help fix any of that?

It all recalls the old cartoon strip character, Pogo, who declared: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

A former Democratic press secretary, Terry Michael teaches college journalists about politics and writes at his “libertarian Democrat” web site, www.terrymichael.net.

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  • ||

    Protip. You are going to get a chuckle in these parts if you suggest in the lead graf that there's a problem with sowing cynicism.

  • ||

    Can I ask if there is actually such an animal as a "non-partisan elite"? Does anyone actually believe there are people out there, particularly inside the beltway, who are disinterested parties? They might fool themselves into thinking this is true; people have sundry ways of rationalizing away their selfish motives, but really?

  • ||

    Oh, trust me, a lot of hyper-partisan people don't think they're partisan. They'll whine about how evil both extremes are. Then they'll come down almost completely on one side of the issue, only with some relatively minor, insignificant quibble that makes them think that they're a completely radical free thinker. Back when I was involved politically, I had to talk to a fair number of these people, and goddamn they're annoying.

    If someone doesn't know where they reside on the political spectrum, or claim they're a moderate, they're either a liar or an inconsistent moron. True moderates are like straight male fashion designers: you know they exist somewhere, but I sure as hell have never seen one.

  • ||

    Tommy Hilfiger.

  • ||

    Ralph Lauren.

  • ||

    Oscar De La Renta

  • ||

    Can I ask if there is actually such an animal as a "non-partisan elite"?

    There's a meta-partisan one that's almost all Democrats. Close enough.

  • ||

    Caption Contest!

    "Who wants to smell this?"

  • ||

    Mmmmm...Gloria Steinem.

  • ||

    Lie lies and more lies thats what it is all about.

    Lou
    www.anon-vpn.se.tc

  • ||

    Nice translation of "Do the Hokey-Pokey."

  • ||

    Ha!

  • ||

    ...that non-partisan elites, armed with ever-expanding rules and great expertise...

    Advance condolences for the thread jacking, but this "expertise" has been manifesting itself in the way of Census advertisements everywhere I look lately. I just saw a bus wrap that read, "If we don't know how many people we have, how will we know how many buses we need?" The slogan is the same for all of the ads with the various subjects (buses, classrooms, etc.) wittily presented as completed fields on a Census form. There's nothing quite like expert technocratic omniscience when presented in all of its naked glory.

  • ||

    I just saw a bus wrap that read, "If we don't know how many people we have, how will we know how many buses we need?"

    I saw it on a sign and almost gagged at the stupidity of it.

    "Due to taxpayer gullibility we get to expand the routes of our munincipal transit system. Intern Smith, bring me the census report so we can figure out how many buses we need".

    Fer chissakes, that may be the stupidest argument I've heard encouraging folks to comply with the census.

  • ||

    It's not that dumb to use census demos (population, median income, etc.) to figure out where to put a new bus line. It's not like companies like Walmart don't use census data to figure out where to put new stores.

  • ||

    It's true. You can decide how many buses to put on an existing route though by seeing how full the buses are.

  • ||

    Since this is a "libertarian Democrat" Terry Michael article, I'd just like to quote from an email Terry sent me, as I am very proud:

    "You are just a garden variety idiot. It is stunning how disgusting you are, whoever you are, hiding behind your cloak of anonymity."

    Do any of YOU assholes get hate mail like this from reason contributors? I DON'T THINK SO.

  • ||

    *high five*

  • ||

    *down low*

  • ||

    *up high*

  • ||

    *TOO SLOW*

  • ||

    too slow

  • ||

    I'm jealous.

  • ||

    Good evening. Tonight on "It's the Mind", we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu. That strange feeling we sometimes get that we've lived through something before, that what is happening now has already happened. Tonight on "It's the Mind", we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've. . . . Anyway, tonight on "It's the Mind", we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange. . . .

  • ||

    I'm jealous.

  • ||

    Wow. I am really impressed. That is awesome

  • ||

    I can't believe anyone who writes for a serious publication would write something like that. Even if you had sad something equally stupid and childish to provoke it, you can't get drug down to that level. What a tool.

  • ||

    Hey Episiarch,

    We fight a lot. But I'm impressed u get emails from Reason.com

  • ||

    To be clear, the email was not from reason, it was from Terry Michael.

  • ||

    I got some like that from Michael Young a couple years ago...but I was being an a-hole...much respect though...good job

  • ||

    I got some like that from Michael Young a couple years ago...but I was being an a-hole...much respect though...good job

  • ||

    respect

  • ||

    I'm not sure what the writer is trying to say here. If he doesn't like the idea of public financing of elections, fine. If he thinks some non-profits are misguided, fine. But to deny that money has a strong influence on politics is delusional.

  • LarryA||

    Really?

    With a few exceptions politicians see political donations as a tool with which they can buy advertising so they can stay in office. Their drug of choice is power, not cash.

  • ||

    I had a political science professor a couple of years ago make a similar statement. I agree it's not about the money. It is about the power. A lot of politicians are rich before entering public office but money alone can not buy the power and the perks that come with a job in congress.

  • ||

    The ONLY way publicly-financed elections would work, would be for every single candidate to receive the same amount of money.

    Rs and Ds aren't going to do that. They likes their power perches.

  • ||

    Except, for guys like me, who want to run in every campaign, so I get my share of campaign cash. Who decides who's a legitimate candidate? Who will verify that the campaign cash is spent on campaign, like for my caviar and hotel rooms.

  • ||

    I'd sum it up as government has become the means by which people live off of others, including so called ethics organizations. And the "ethics organizations" like news organizations are also in the game.

  • ||

    Wow, how was this provoked?

    Also, this cloak of anonymity...does it come with the gauntlet of power, or is that something I gotta get separately?

  • ||

    All cloaks of anonymity are usable only by drows (dark elves) and Episiarchs; anyone else who attempts to don one ends up with a -5 modifier to their Terry Michael Hate saving throw.

  • ||

    Is this like the Cone of Silence?

  • ||

    I resist any attempts to bring Get Smart into this.

  • ||

    Get Smart is what gives a commenter his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

  • ||

    Kind of like duct tape.

  • ||

    So what you're saying is...you're MacGuyver. Or at the least, you sport a mullet.

  • ||

    No, not MacGyver, but that was an impressive mullet.

  • ||

    NOW you have survived the Gon Tufar.

    Duct tape indeed, you horribly ill mangina!

  • ||

    Ewwwwww. Physician, heal thyself!

  • ||

    Oh, and I do not recall how it was provoked; I believe I made a comment in a thread off of one of Terry's articles about how "libertarian Democrat" is an oxymoron or something.

  • ||

    But that's an utterly correct statement!

    The flaw in comparing today's corruption with yesteryear's is that in the Before Time, the amount of power in the hands of corrupt officials was must less than the power held by. . .corrupt officials today.

    However, I agree that most talk of reform and ethics is cover for taking measures to protect incumbents. Kind of like how most regulation is intended to create barriers to entry by evil upstart competition.

  • ||

    "Before Time, the amount of power in the hands of corrupt officials was must less than the power held by. . .corrupt officials today."

    When are you talking about? In ancient times, the tax collector could basically kill you or starve you. The Roman Empire and the various Chinese empires were fabulous at controlling and extracting loot from the populace. I am not sure I would buy that.

  • ||

    I'm talking about the United States, 18th and 19th centuries.

  • ||

    That's how I understood you.

  • Chris||

    Kind of like how most regulation is intended to create barriers to entry by evil upstart competition.

    You're not kidding. Nearly 25% of my very modest starting capital for my own self financed business was shelled out for regulatory reasons. Certifications, taxes, certificates to run a business in my state, county and city, etc. And that's only the monetary value of all of the fucking hoops I had to jump through just to get started which doesn't even address all of the work, driving, waiting, calling, etc I had to do just to satisfy the state.

    All of my sales (not profit mind you, but sales) still haven't paid for all of my regulatory obligations to the state.

  • ||

    "Lost in this televised Kabuki theater is any serious attempt to address the really big public policy"

    Isn't using that loathsome and misapplied metaphor grounds for the death penalty yet?

    For the last time "Kubuki Theater" is just a dance drama. It is stylized. But it is no more or less a show with a pre-determined outcome than any other form of theater.

  • ||

    it is no more or less a show with a pre-determined outcome

    That's why "Kubuki Theater" is such a handy and irresistable device for the "journalist" contract players and "strategists" on cable-news shows. Their audience has no idea what it means, but it sure sounds intelligent.

  • ||

    Is Terry Michael the AIDS isn't caused by HIV wacko who posts here sometimes?

  • ||

    Yes. Yes he is.

    Terry should get himself checked for cancer; that level of hate could cause tumors like in The Brood.

  • ||

    Why the fuck does Reason voluntarily associate itself with him then!?

  • ||

    Ask Nick or Matt.

  • ||

    Sorry Epi, my "what the fuck" questioning was rhetorical, not directed at you.

  • ||

    They actually have a contributor who claims that? Seriously that is about the level of claiming vaccines cause autism.

  • ||

    What's your point?

  • ||

    It's all on his homepage dude.

  • ||

    Don't look!!!

  • ||

    I looked, briefly, apparently he is also a "61-year-old, un-partnered, gay, atheist libertarian" who doesn't think HIV causes AIDS.

  • ||

    Or that US foreign policy has something to do with terrorism. That's just crazy talk.

  • ||

    You have two fine ones. However, thinking and reasoning are not amongst them.

  • Paul||

    especially those in the non-real world of editorial boards—is that their own publishers spend unlimited cash to speak, cash they’ve accepted from their advertisers, who usually happen to be big bad corporations.

    I have one minor bone to pick with this. There are journalists who realize this and thus suggest we move to "publicly funded journalism". That way they don't have to worry about "bottom line issues"(?!) and can therefore be truly independent.

    Because if the government funds journalism, we'll certainly get plenty of independent journalism.

  • ||

    Agreed that most people aren't focusing on the big problem. That doesn't mean we shouldn't "follow the money" though.

    It's always nice to know who bought my politician.

  • LarryA||

    Then follow the power.

  • ||

    What is interesting is that the progressives only seem interested in the nexus of money and politics when it involves private industry.

    When it involves unions, welfare, government subsidies to "green energy", and entitlements, they draw a blank.

    Yet entitlements are easily the largest chunk of the budget, and lobbying groups that represent entitlement beneficiaries like the AARP are easily the most influential. Followed by the farm lobby (both agribusiness and "small family farmers"), and perhaps the car industry (big three plus UAW). Then there's the SEIU and other public employee unions.

  • ||

    Hazel, I trust that you would include all of the universities, private laboratories, research outfits and scientists as amongst the hyenas positioning themselves to pounce upon whatever scraps they can scrounge fron the NIH, all for the purpose of doing "science" which we are to take seriously.

  • ||

    Yeah, but I'm a research hyena.

    And NIH is a long way from the whole story: NSF, DOE, DOD ... the whole alphabet soup.

  • ||

    Are there hyenas in Bolivia>

  • ||

    yes

  • ||

    Someone told me just today that UCLA was the single largest donor to Obama's campaign, right before Goldman-Sachs. So yes, they're pouncing and crowding in with the rest of the piggies.

  • ||

    Yes, there certainly is "voting yourself money from the treasury" effect there too.

    I guess the progressive position is that it's allright if you spend money to get other people's resources "redistributed" to you, but if you spend money to try to keep your own earnings, that's bad.

  • ||

    And the thing about UCLA is they were spending taxpayer dollars to agitate for more taxpayer dollars. Of course, the same is now true of Goldman, GM and so on into infinity.

  • ||

    Right. But my point above is that the progressives ONLY focus on the Goldmans and GMs, and totally ignore the fact that half of federal outlays go to elderly people represented by the AARP - which is also the biggest lobbying group in DC.

    If a private corporation can lobby the government for monetary favors, so can 10% of the population lobby to have half the budget redirect to it.

  • ||

    "Enacted after some idiots in Richard Nixon's White House broke into the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee"

    I have to ask....in what sane universe can a meglomaniacal thug like G. Gordon Liddy not only walk the streets free, but actually be A POPULAR CONSERVATIVE FIGURE?!

  • ||

    Like most other former felons, he did a stretch and was released at the end of his sentence.

    We just elected a megalomaniac president so . . . what was your point again? Politics seems to draw these types of people.

  • ||

    +4

  • ||

    Raaaacist!

  • ||

    in what sane universe can a meglomaniacal thug like G. Gordon Liddy not only walk the streets free

    He did 9 years. How long should someone go to prison for a single B&E?

  • ||

    Adonisus|4.30.10 @ 6:06PM|#
    "...I have to ask....in what sane universe can a meglomaniacal thug like G. Gordon Liddy not only walk the streets free, but actually be A POPULAR CONSERVATIVE FIGURE?!"

    The same one where a delusional thug like Ehrlich is still published and is a POPULAR LEFTIST FIGURE!

  • ||

    You're expecting non-hypocritical consistency, Ron? Geez!

  • ||

    I am no more likely to read a Terry Michael article than one by Ron Hart.

  • ||

    At least Ron tries to be funny. And succeeds sometimes.

  • ||

    "Ironically, the trust deficit is partly a result of the very transparency rules adopted to encourage confidence in government. Enacted after some idiots in Richard Nixon's White House broke into the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee—apparently guided by the aphorism "nothing's too cheap to steal"—transparency laws were supposed to shine light on the influence of cash."

    And exactly how was Watergate -- a harebrained political burglary that the Nixon White House made an even more harebrained attempt to cover up --the result of "the influence of cash" in politics?

  • Mad Max||

    Because, like, man, it's the corporations, and Nixon is like a fascist, and . . . wow, man, it's like you don't get it at all!

  • ||

    However, I agree that most talk of reform and ethics is cover for taking measures to protect incumbents.

    No kidding; who squawked loudest about Citizens United?

  • LarryA||

    A self-described citizens’ lobby, Common Cause, was founded in 1970.

    Circa 1975 I was back in college for my masters. One of the profs tried to recruit me for Common Cause, which was going to shut down all the lobbies and Clean Up Government.

    I asked him how.

    He told me CC was going to send people to D.C. to represent the members and persuade politicians to pass transparent government legislation.

    “So,” I said. “Common Cause is a lobby.”

    “Oh, no. Lobbies come from corporations. Common Cause isn’t a... Well technically it’s incorporated, but...”

    Turns out he had to go hold office hours or something.

  • ||

    I know that in this day of blaming others for all our problems, it is much easier to say it is the fault of big money and lobbyists that our elected representatives make bad decisions. Especially if we don't agree with them. Maybe we could do the hard thing and own that we the people elected these self-serving ignoramuses. The borough council, of which I am president, in my town makes $20 a month and we make decisions based on what we think is best for our town. Noone lobbies our votes. It is basically a volunteer position. We do it because we want to live in a great place where people care. I think that the real problem in Washington is that every senator and representative cares more about his state and his reelection than the state of the Union. We have state government to take care of internal problems. We elect representatives from our states to go to Washington and protect the Union. The United States of America has to come first in the minds of our reps in DC. How did we get back to 19th century isolation of the states? It is not partisanism (is that a word) is is Statism (not a word either) that is destroying us. Do not do as the romans did.

  • ||

    Small quibble with you - Senators should put their state over the nation when considering issues. The more states pursue their interests, the more power they have, the less the federal government has, the slower we lose our freedoms.

    I think this goes back to the ear-mark controversy. Most conservatives find ear-marks abominable, but the truth is not taking earmarks is like not taking tax deductions. Until the system changes it's pure foolishness to not try and get some of your citizens' tax dollars back.

  • ||

    Not so much the fault of lobbyists, corporations and interest groups, but the fault of politicians who want to meddle in the free market via "regulations" that are really favors to industry, so that campaign cash will flow to the politicians. If politicians left government to settle disputes among citizens and national defense, then there would be no payback from campaign contributions.

  • ||

    I think that the real problem in Washington is that every senator and representative cares more about his state and his reelection than the state of the Union.

    The human condition is that a man thinks about himself first, his immediate family a close second or maybe equal, his friends and close relatives third, his neighbors forth, the region in which he lives a fifth, and so on. A senator or any other politician who has a grand vision, contrary to man's natural condition (grand visions alway are), is more dangerous than a self-servicing politician who wants to get re-elected and bring home some spoils.

  • ||

    For arguments sake I will agree with your premise. If so, the only way to let/allow/enable our elected national "representatives" to do what is right for the nation is to term limit them, and more importantly, limit the federal government to only do those things that the founders intended. If the federal government doesn't have the resources (taxes/spoils) to give out, they would have no choice but to do only those things that are their constitutional obligations. Let the individual states do what they deem best and tax their citizens to pay for it. Let the market sort it out between the states.

  • ||

    Federalism is OK with me, but it won't necessarily stop a Finkbiner from placing a pyramid upside-down on his desk and wondering why it topples over.

  • ||

    And what happens when that term limited senator grabs all that he can for his state before he is forced out?
    At least lame duck Presidents worry about their legacies. A lame duck senator would have very little holding him in check.
    Term limits may ultimately be the right answer but I don't think they are a silver bullet to fix congress.

  • ||

    When have a man with a Grand Vision you get an idealist, and the question always is what is he an idealist for? And how many corners is he willing to cut to achieve his ideal? With the other sort you get, well, Charlie Crist.

  • ||

    Thanks for writing this article Terry. The many comments only serve to make your point--there is a large misunderstanding of the relationship of campaign contributions to the positions held by an elected official.

    Most elected officials I know have a very strong set of principles and beliefs--beliefs they held prior to entering the public arena. Do people who agree with the politician contribute--and sometimes contribute heavily--to a politician who holds a common set of beliefs? Of course.

    Do office holders change their votes based on contributions? I can honestly say I've very, very seldom seen it happen.

    Truth is part of the reason a politician does not have to change his/her vote based on a contribution is because there is money to be raised on both sides of virtually every issue. Think about it...both liberals and conservatives find more than enough campaign donations to mount successful campaigns.

    We have more than enough legitimate issues to discuss, debate and put into public policy. But "community leaders" who push us into a debate about money playing a large role in determining public policy are doing a disservice to the discussion.

  • ||

    If the politicians couldn't rig the market, there wouldn't be near the level of campaign contributions, regardless of their position on the "issue". This is government going beyond its ethical limits. If you remember that movie with Eddie Murphy in "The Distinguished Gentleman" you may remember one of his mentors telling him it didn't matter his position on an issue, he'd get campaign cash from either side.

    Consider some examples: limiting oil rig liability for spills to $75 million via the Oil Pollution Act, subsidies to "green" energy, global warming research, requirements for ethanol, mandatory air bags, farm price subsidies, nuclear accident liability limits, requirements that doctors treat anyone that shows up to an emergency room, and that's a very short list.

    The only way to reduce campaign cash, is to get the government out of the game of picking winners and losers.

  • ||

    "Finally, the public’s disappointment with government can be traced to the most likely suspects of all: the public itself. Dangerously armed with a willingness to suspend belief in the law of supply and demand, the people are always eager for a free lunch of entitlement spending, while for dessert they blast politicians for running up giant deficits."

    Nailed it.

    Rarely does anyone ever implicate themselves for the causes of society's problems. Even rarer is anyone willing to make changes in order to help them. Show me a 65 year old man who turns down medicare and social security.

  • ||

    Especially after paying for it all his life.

  • ||

    So while I'm forced to pay tax, you expect me to voluntarily renounce entitlements?
    I don't think so.
    How about: I decline to pay taxes; and I decline to accept the state's largesse?
    Or, if you're going to put a gun to my head and steal 40%+ of my income, expect to grab what I can, when I can.

  • ||

    Perhaps we can all agree to give up our take of government cash, and that we won't allow government to do it anymore?

    Regarding Medicare, David Goldhill said that seniors now pay more out of pocket for their Medicare treatment, than before Medicare was enacted. That's how much government has screwed up the health care market for seniors. They actually think they're getting something from the government. Health care would probably be less expensive for them if Medicare didn't exist.

  • ||

    I AM SCOTCH HAMILTON

  • ||

    We still don't miss you, Scotch.

  • ||

    There is no such thing as ethics in government. The Congress, Administration and Judicial branches are full of attorneys. There is no difference between an elected official or a TV anchor person or a Hollywood actor. That is why they all love each other and America is growing to...hate them.

  • ||

    Yikes, what a poorly thought out, unintentionally ironic piece of tripe. Is this what passes for reason on this website?

    To say that transparency rules themselves are the root of public distrust is like saying that the problem with Abu Ghraib was the photographs. And don't even get me started on the paragraph that denigrates "goo-goos" -- a term I've never before encountered and one that could only be designed to appeal to some faculty other than reason -- for recommending that readers follow the money... and then impugns goo-goos for being motivated by the pursuit of filthy lucre. Really, Mr. Michael?

    Utter trash. Thanks to Harper's for reminding me just how foolish "Reason" can be.

  • ||

    They aren't the "root" of public distrust. Terry wrote that "the trust deficit is partly a result of the very transparency rules" because they do show a connection between campaign cash and legislation.

    But there are also problems with disclosure of campaign cash, namely that politicians will hold it against those who do contribute to the other side, and send in the IRS, the health inspectors, and perhaps write some legislation that puts the contributor's livelihood in jeopardy.

  • sd||

    sd

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