The Lonely Centrist

A place for reasoned debate about the issues of the day.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wertheimer and Potter vs. Potter and Wertheimer

Does campaign finance reform clean up government in the sense that it can prevent scandals such as Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham? In this earlier post, I discovered that most reformers seem to think so - it seemed as though reform guru Fred "the Most Naive Man in America" Wertheimer and his sidekick Trevor Potter were out of touch with their colleagues in the reform community, who seemed to unanimously agree that the answer to lobbying scandals is campaign finance reform.

This matters, because reformers often - as my earlier post noted - use these scanals to argue for more reform. If that's the case, then it seems fair to criticize past reform efforts when they fail to stop corruption scandals such as Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham. But Mr. Potter and Mr. Wertheimer, in a tough column, sharply denied a connection.

So once again, I grabbed my trusty Google search engine and headed out to ask some real reformers what they thought - only this time, the reformers were Mr. Wertheimer and Mr. Potter themselves:

The logic behind attempting to lay the Jack Abramoff and “Duke” Cunningham scandals on BCRA’s doorstep for failing to stop corruption, completely escapes us. Bribery of public officials was illegal before the passage of BCRA, remains so today and must continue to be rooted out to protect the integrity of our government. BCRA did not affect the bribery laws, nor make them obsolete.

Fred Wertheimer (the Most Naive Man in America), President Democracy 21 and Trevor Potter, Chairman, Campaign Legal Center, August 16, 2006.

The Core issue that must be addressed in th end to deal with corruption and lobbying scandals in Washington is fundamental campaign finance reform.
Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21 President, in Congressional Testimony, March 2006.

We have been functioning without a Sheriff of Judge for Congress... that ends up in scandals like the Abramoff affair... The Federal Election Commission, for example, which is responsible for enforcing campaign finance laws, is a failed agency... The issues involved here also raise larger questions about campaign finance practices and the need for fundamental reform.

Fred Wertheimer, Congressional Testimony on Lobbying Reform, Jan. 25, 2006

Under the Pence bill, a Washington lobbyist, such as convicted criminal Jack Abramoff, or a defense contractor, such as convicted criminal Mitchell Wade of Representative Duke Cunningham infamy, could contribute a million dollars to support the campaign of a Member from whom they were seeking favorable government treatment.
Fred Wertheimer, quoted at Common Dreams, March 21, 2006

It's openly accepted that lobbyists will help members of Congress in various ways, through campaign contributions and other financial favors, and will get appropriate help in return for their clients,
Fred Wertheimer, quoted in the Des Moines Register, January 15, 2006

The six benchmarks we are jointly proposing today are, we believe, the right blueprint for Congress to follow as members work through these issues... While we are focusing primarily on lobbying reforms today, we want to make clear that campaign contributions are at the heart of the lobbying and corruption scandals now engulfing Congress.
- "Statement of Trevor Potter on Lobbying Reform, Jan. 24, 2006," and attached list of six benchmarks.

In our last entry, we wondered if Mr. Wertheimer and Mr. Potter were at odds with the reform community. Now we wonder if maybe they are just political opportunists who will say whatever seems convenient at the moment.

Click in next week, when our roving reporter asks the question: Why do so many reporters in the mainstream press take these guys seriously?

  • The Skeptic
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Michael Barone
  • The New Republic
  • National Review
  • Democracy Project
  • Bob Bauer
  • Center for Competitive Politics
  • Ryan Sager
  • Going to the Matt
  • Professor Bainbridge
  • Volokh Conspiracy
  • Mystery Pollster
  • Amitai Etzioni
  • Alexander Chrenkoff
  • Middle East Media Research Institute
  • Right Democrat
  • Democrats for Life