The Lonely Centrist

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Oprah, Obama and "Undue" Influence

For the first time ever, Oprah Winfrey has endorsed a candidate for political office, Barack Obama. I've got no beef with Oprah or Obama, the former of whom I never watch, the latter of whom seems to be a intriguing new face on the political scene, a vessel into which many hopes and ambitions are being poured. Maybe he is the guy to shake a ridiculously prosperous America from whatever dolldrums have us in such a funk.

But Paul Sherman of the Center for Competitive Politics asks a good question: "Where are the 'reformers' to rescue us from Oprah's undue influence on the political process?"

Sherman writes:
Reformers intent on eliminating private money from politics [have] adopt[ed] an expansive definition of 'corruption.' They have defined the term downward, away from quid pro quo and towards 'influence' and 'access.' But this has painted them into a logical corner, because under this redefinition influential endorsements begin to look more and more like a source of 'corruption.' ...

[A] common reform complaint about monetary contributions was that, at the end of the day, it was the large contributor whose phone calls were being returned. Following this valuable endorsement, is there any chance that Barack Obama won't be returning Oprah's phone calls? What makes her influence more deserving of protection than, say, an unknown professional with money to spend?

This is a good question indeed. Note that if Oprah wanted to contribute $5000 to Obama, it would violate the law. But if she wants to give Obama a million dollars value in TV time and endorsements, that is perfectly legal. Is this a good idea? Says Sherman:
There may be a relatively small percentage of the population that can give $2,300 to a political candidate, but there's only one "most influential woman in the world."

Equality, reform style.

  • 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