Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 4, 2008
POLITICS: Hoisting, Petards, And Regulatory Loopholes
One thing I have little patience for, but which we will undoubtedly be treated to at length if we get a McCain-Obama matchup - since both have made this a key theme of their legislative careers - is sanctimony and proposals for regulation about campaign speech, campaign contributions, etc. But every time we get efforts to regulate these sorts of things, even by private agreements, we see that the very people doing the regulating want loopholes for themselves, raising a point I have made in the past:
Back in the 90s, both Newt Gingrich and Al Gore (and they weren't the only ones, witness Tom DeLay's legal difficulties) got in trouble for rather technical campaign finance violations. In both cases their supporters argued that (1) such technical violations couldn't possibly be grounds for prosecuting such important elected officials, (2) they could not have known they were breaking the rule, there was no controlling legal authority, and (3) those laws hadn't been enforced in that way in the past (in Gore's case an 1886 statute nobody'd ever been prosecuted under). Regardless of the merits of the two cases, it seemed to me then and still does that if the laws are vague or technical enough, or the penalties disproportionate enough, that you would blanch at throwing an important person you support in the slammer for breaking them, then they have no business on the books.
Exhibits A&B: McCain's battle with the FEC over whether he is taking federal matching funds, and Obama's corresponding efforts to use the filibuster to prevent the seating of a Republican FEC Commissioner.
Exhibit D: Obama getting his church into hot water with the IRS by giving a campaign speech from the pulpit, violating a rule originally passed by LBJ to silence his critics.
Exhibit E: Eliot Spitzer trumpeting his self-imposed limits on donations - then directing his big-dollar donors (I love that the wealthy donor named in this story is "Richard Richman," could you make that up?) to the state party...whose funds are under Spitzer's control.
As long as there is politics in money, there will be money in politics. Stop insulting our intelligence, let the money flow, let the politicians - and everyone else - speak where they want, and just disclose your donors and let the voters decide.