Baseball Crank
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 C: Obama's efforts to weasel out of an agreement he made with McCain on spending caps.

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.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:43 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

This is the kind of stuff that arouses contempt towards lawyers and politicians on the part of us non-lawyers. I agree with you. If the law ain't gonna be enforced, repeal it.

I don't get it about Exhibit D. I stopped reading about halfway through because the letter was a rant. Seems to me the IRS & FBI are picking on Obama. Did they ever go after the Revs. Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton? Didn't Bill Clinton speak at a lot of Black churches in his campaigns? Didn't Hillary Clinton appear at a Harlem church and get an endorsement from the pastor (yeah, I know he was standing OUTSIDE the church when he endorsed her, a voilation of the spirit of the law)?

While they're at it repealing campaign finance laws, Congress ought to end tax-exemption for churches. How the hell can Congress give a tax exemption to a church without establishing a religion in violation of the constitution?

Posted by: Jim Linnane at March 4, 2008 4:10 PM

While we're at it why dont we just repeal perjury laws when we know in advance that the President will pardon his buddy anyway? Somehow I dont think that Crank favors applying his article to its logical conclusion.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at March 4, 2008 4:16 PM

Seth, W did not pardon Slick Willie. He was convicted and slapped on the hands. Oh are referring to Libby aren't you. Convicted of perjury for saying he didn't remember. Who are you or I or anyone else to question what someone remembers. I am sure you didn't question Slick Willie (there's that guy again) when he claimed he didn't remember Monica. I thought Barbara Bush had a great line "no man ever forgets a BJ."

Posted by: maddirishman at March 5, 2008 1:20 AM

I've heard Dick Cheney speak on the TV talk shows.
I'd forget anything he told me to do too!

Posted by: Robert in BA at March 5, 2008 8:48 AM
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