December 17, 2003


Campaign Finance Casualties (David S. Broder, December 17, 2003, Washington Post)

[T]he practical effect of McCain-Feingold is likely to be, as Mann says, to "rearrange the flows" of money, not to reduce it. You can see that effect already, because parties and candidates have been operating under the terms of McCain-Feingold for the past 13 months while the legal challenge was being heard.

In this new "golden era," President Bush is on his way to breaking the all-time record by raising almost $200 million for his preconvention campaign, while two Democrats for the first time have rejected the public financing system that limits spending for the nomination. Meanwhile, millionaires such as George Soros and major interest groups are pouring money into supposedly independent political organizations, which will replace party "soft money" spending on voter registration and turnout programs.

The question, then, is whether the limited purifying effects are worth the restrictions on political activity embodied in the act, or whether Justice Antonin Scalia is right in contending that "the juice is not worth the squeeze."

Unlike Scalia and the other dissenters, I think the court got it right in upholding the ban on the unlimited, frequently six-figure "soft money" contributions to the parties from business, labor and wealthy individuals. Corporations and unions have been barred from contributing to federal candidates for decades, and the courts have long sustained the constitutionality of limits on the size of individual contributions. The "soft money" loophole was created by administrative action and was then ruthlessly exploited by both political parties. Shutting it down was an overdue step.

Boy, you really have to have drunk the Kool-Aid to think that a political system where George Soros will influence the Democrats by giving them several tens of millions of dollars through the back door instead of millions through the front is even a little bit "purified".

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2003 12:22 PM

Purification is a ritual. It makes people feel better without changing anything. Might as well have a shaman cast out the evil spirits from the money.

Posted by: Robert D at December 19, 2003 12:37 AM