During the blather about campaign finance “reform,” we all knew that McCain-Feingold, the bill that became law, would not “take the money out of politics.” And why should it?
Raising and spending money are an important aspects of politics — the one testing a politician’s acumen and the other allowing people to participate in the campaign. It’s important that the public know every red cent that’s contributed and by whom so that they can judge if anybody is buying influence. That, however, is far from what McCain-Feingold did:
“[W]hat you got is an avalanche of money into politics this year as George Soros, Democratic big shots and, to a lesser extent, Republican money men (Republicans are slower on the uptake) get into the business of ’independent’ political expenditures,” writes columnist Charles Krauthammer.
“All that McCain-Feingold did was make it impossible to give huge personal contributions to political parties. But if you have far more money than you can ever hope to spend, what to do? Buy another Gulfstream V? No. Play an even more important role in politics by bankrolling your very own ’527,’ a tax-code loophole that enables the fat cats to fund their own political advertising so long as they do not ’coordinate’ with the candidate.”
In a way, I’m glad that McCain-Feingold is so blatantly a failure — it’s good for people, even George Soros, to give money to candidates, don’t get me wrong. But McCain-Feingold has made the process silly without curtailing the influence of money in politics:
“The ads have another restriction,” writes Krauthammer. “They cannot advocate voting for anyone. I love that part, for two reasons. First, it produces comical scripts that say, ’President Bush, friend of Halliburton, likes taking food from the mouths of orphans. If you think that this is not nice, write President Bush and tell him so.’ Of course, the ad buyers mean: ’Vote Kerry.’ But they cannot say so.”
There is, of course, a delicious irony:
“I like the poetic justice,” writes Krauthammer. “The goo-goo do-gooders who endorsed campaign finance reform have another great cause: the awfulness of negative campaigning. Well, they have produced a system that is practically designed to produce negative ads.
“So first you got Soros-funded Bush-the-monster ads. Now you get the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad (and book) accusing John Kerry of falsifying his military record.
“The Democrats have reacted to the Swift boat vets with anguished and selective indignation. This assault was bankrolled by rich Bush supporters, they charge. No kidding. Where else would Swift boat vets get the money?”
The next move, of course, will be to “reform” negative advertising, and then everything will hinge on what the meaning of negative is.