The Lonely Centrist

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Another contender in the Naive Man contest

About 10 days ago I asked if long-time campaign finance reformer Fred Wertheimer was the most naive man in America. But perhaps we need a weekly award, with a year-end runoff. Being on vacation allows one to catch up, I guess, and I've found an interesting little article from a couple weeks ago in the "catch up" reading I brought along, suggesting Fred is not alone in not understanding what he is doing.

It's BNA Money and Politics Report (subscription required), talking with Larry Noble, the head of another reform group, The Center for Responsive Politics, a few days back.

Noble is talking about an effort in congress to slip into an appropriations bill* a clause allowing "Leadership PACs" to make unlimited contributions to political parties. A "Leadership PAC" is a PAC that, for obscure reasons unknown to we ordinary citizens, a member of congress can have so that he can double his take under the law. Note that the name says it all - there are no special exemptions for challengers or backbenchers, just party leaders. John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" is a leadership PAC, serving as sort of a slush fund to cover his travel and campaigning - the only hitch is that he can't actually say he is campaigning when Straight Talk picks up the tab. Nancy Pelosi, Bill Frist - they all have "Leadership PACs."

At the end of a lengthy article, BNA sums up Noble's reaction thusly: "[A]nother instance of lawmakers trying to manipulate the campaign finance system to maximize their ability to raise campaign money."

What? Lawmakers would try to manipulate the system to raise more campaign money. Wait a minute: how can that be? Aren't the reformers always arguing that we have to trust Congress to regulate here, nevermind the First Amendment? Didn't they celebrate when the Supreme Court bought that argument a couple years ago and upheld McCain-Feingold as constitutional? And now you tell me they're not all public spirited, but trying to manipulate the system? And that this is "another instance," suggesting that you've known that all along?

I, for one, am shocked! But hey, Larry, it's guys like you that gave them that power.

*Don't get me started on unrelated little provisions slipped into appropriations bills!

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