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Campaign Finance Reform

Everyone who wants to reform the way campaigns are financed is forgetting the fundamental principal that money follows power. Whatever laws you change, whatever schemes you invent, whatever reforms you concoct, the folks with the money and the desire to influence the government will find a way to use that money to buy the influence of the people who can give them what they want. Younger readers probably don't realize it, but political action committees (PACs) were created as part of a previous wave of campaign finance reform. Yet today, PACs are often seen as the chief evil (or one of them, anyway) of the campaign finance system.

The only way to dilute the influence of money on politics is to dilute the potential return on investment for the money spent on politicians. The only way to do that is to take away the power, that is concentrated in such a small number of politicians today, to give the special interests what they want. If the politicians aren't worth buying anymore, the campaign finance issue will quickly become a non-issue.

How do we do this? Well, not to beat it into the ground, but you get a lot of dilution of power with the government by performance ideas outlined elsewhere in this diatribe :-). If Congress is no longer making most of the decisions, and instead the power which used to be wielded by Congress is spread among thousands of states and cities across the country, then there isn't any one place for the special interests to focus their money.

With government by performance, you get another advantage as well. Instead of campaign finance reform, you get campaign content reform (a far more important goal). Campaigns should be much more a debate on what priorities to set for the country and much less mudslinging.

The other thing campaign finance needs is more and better disclosure. One fascinating part of the 1997 debate in the Senate on the campaign finance reform bill was the day Trent Lott stood up and talked about a constituent of his who wrote asking them to mandate full disclosure for both hard and soft money on the internet within a day of the funds coming in. He pointed out how much sense that made as opposed to the arcane bill Senators McCain and Feingold were pushing.

I certainly agree that full and instant disclosure makes all the sense in the world, and is in no way incompatible with any other reform efforts. A bill mandating disclosure could be passed at any time without regard to any other reform efforts, without waiting for the results of the hearings on campaign finance, without, in fact, any sensible objections being raised.

So, we have the Senate majority leader speaking of disclosure in glowing terms while opposing a different bill. We have the simple fact that a disclosure bill would be simple to produce and a no-brainer to pass. Given all that, did they pass a disclosure bill? No. Did they debate a disclosure bill? No. Was there even the slightest hint of a spec of a clue that a disclosure bill might be considered? No. Is anyone in Washington actually serious about campaign finance reform? Guess :-).


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