Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Real Reason Behind Campaign Finance Reform

An article from the Politico shows the real reason many politicians (we'll exempt Sen. Feingold and to a lesser extent McCain from this) support campaign finance reform: it's a great way of keeping outsiders, well, outside. Money 'graphs:

Now that Mayor Bloomberg is getting ready to spend hundreds of millions — maybe even more than a billion — of his own dollars on a presidential run that, if executed properly, would take the electoral votes of New York and California and Florida and Massachusetts out of the Hillary Clinton column and into the Michael Bloomberg column, President Clinton is suddenly coming down with the fantods about the dangers of self-financed political campaigns.

"We are very frustrated because we have a Supreme Court that seems determined to say that the wealthier have more right to free speech than the rest of us," President Clinton said in Iowa on Sunday, according to Politico, complaining that such spending violates "the spirit of campaign finance reform."

(My emphasis)

As the Politico points out, this means that she has suddenly decided- at the perfect time- that unlimited personal campaign financing and expenditures by individual candidates are unconscionable. This after watching all sorts of her political allies dig deep into their own pockets to run their campaigns, including John Kerry, who ran after the passage of BCRA.

As for her claim that "we have a Supreme Court that seems determined to say that the wealthier have more right to free speech than the rest of us," I have to wonder which Supreme Court she's referring to. The most logical case she's referring to is of course Buckley v. Valeo, which was a pre-Reagan Burger Court decision in which Justice Brennan (the worthy liberal icon) joined fully. So her implication that somehow the Bush-era Rehnquist/Roberts court is responsible for saying "that the wealthy have more right to free speech" is utterly false and misleading.

In any event, don't think for one second that it's a coincidence that Hillary would benefit greatly from a limit on personal expenditures on one's own campaign. She's an outstanding fundraiser who therefore has a massive advantage over almost any challengers, whether it be for the Senate or the White House. Indeed, any limits on personal expenditures (and for that matter campaign donations of any sort) provide incumbents and other already-powerful politicians with a massive fundraising advantage. By placing such limits on campaigns and contributions, fundraising becomes all about quantity rather than quality, and the incumbent and/or powerful politician will always have an easier time getting a large quantity of donations. While there are a number of reasons for this, the most obvious one is that most campaign donors want to give money to someone who can win, and incumbents and/or other powerful politicians have already proven they can win.

When an outsider can raise enough money to compete from just one or two donors or from their own personal finances, though, the incumbent/powerful politician's natural fundraising advantage gets significantly reduced. This is why Hillary (and, to be fair, plenty of other powerful incumbents and other politicians) conveniently advocates restrictions on campaign donations and personal expenditures.