Campaign Finance Reform
Peter Roff notes that, as everyone with any sense of history would have predicted, McCain-Feingold has failed to staunch the flow of money into politics, it merely redirected it. He does note an amusing irony:
If there is a real wrinkle, it is the way in which the two major political parties appear to have flipped positions on money in politics.
The conventional wisdom, something that has been disproved repeatedly, is that the Republicans are dependent on the contributions of the wealthiest Americans for their funding, while the Democrats rely on much smaller contributions.
Actually, the reverse is true. The average contribution to the Republican Party is well below $50, whereas the Democrats are believed to exceed that amount considerably. (Since they don’t reveal the amount, it must be estimated.)
Traditionally, the Democrats rail against the influence of the super-wealthy in politics. In the current political cycle, however, they appear to depend strongly on the support and activity of the 527 groups, some of which are being funded to the tune of millions of dollars by a very few individuals who want George W. Bush out of the White House.
The Republican Party, also seemingly counter to its traditional position, is up in arms over the way in which unquantifiable support from some of the wealthiest people in the United States may be influencing the election.
But there is a better way to address the problem: make the ads themselves an issue in the campaign. The Republicans, or ideological allies outside the formal party structure, should run ads of their own posing questions the voters should be asked to consider, something that goes a little like this:
Open on a black screen, ominous music playing softly and then building as the ad progresses. From the center spins up a picture of George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire who has promised to contribute millions of dollars to the 527 groups working to defeat George W. Bush in the election.
As Soros’ picture fills the screen, a grim-voiced announcer intones, “Why is this foreign-born billionaire trying to buy an American presidential election?
“Billionaire George Soros, a Hungarian-born financier and hedge-fund operator who made millions betting that the British pound would crash, throwing thousands of people out of work,” the announcer continues over a montage of pictures bringing visual life to his words.
“The same George Soros who was fined $2.2 million by a Paris court after he was found guilty of insider trading and who, through his various charitable efforts, bankrolls pro-assisted-suicide campaigns and pro-marijuana efforts throughout the world, leading one former U.S. cabinet official to label him ‘The Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization,'” the ad continues.
“This is the same George Soros whose millions are now being used by left-wing groups like MoveOn.org and the Media Fund to run TV ads attacking George W. Bush, trying to buy the White House for John Kerry and the Democrats,” with a picture of Kerry spinning up next to the one of Soros.
“So,” the announcer asks at the climax, “when you are thinking about how you are going to vote in November, ask yourself one question: Just what is George Soros buying?”
Heh. Pretty clever.
Frankly, I still wish we’d do away with the sham campaign financing restrictions and let people raise all the money they want, from whomever they want, with the requirement that they disclose the source of the funds promptly and publically. But that’s unlikely to happen.