March 19, 2001
6:24 AM   Subscribe

Campaign finance reform gets 2 weeks of debate in the Senate starting today. It has become a battle between the McCain-Feingold bill and the Dubya-D-40 backed Hagel-Landrieu bill. Will anything meaningful get passed? Will it matter if it does?
posted by quirked (18 comments total)

 
Probably not, and no. Lots of people think so-called campaign finance reform is a good idea on the surface; after all, "reform" is always good, isn't it? But when they start to figure out what these bills are all about, and the number of rights they would take away, they'll start turning against it, and loudly. If it ever gets anywhere in the first place. This is the fifth year in a row the McCain-Feingold bill has been introduced, and it's never gotten anywhere before. The only reason it seems to have the slightest bit of extra traction now is because McCain got a slight bit of GOP presidential nomination support last year, which he, and the news media, are misinterpreting as some sort of mandate. To which I say: John, you lost. Ain't no mandate in losing.
posted by aaron at 10:46 AM on March 19, 2001


Oh, almost forgot. The bills are almost certainly unconstitutional. Free speech is free speech. Anything that might pass will get killed by the Supreme Court in the end.
posted by aaron at 10:49 AM on March 19, 2001


Bribery is not a right
posted by Octaviuz at 10:54 AM on March 19, 2001


Campaign contributions are not bribery, any more than it's bribery when I call my congressman's office to bitch about something after I voted for him.
posted by aaron at 11:07 AM on March 19, 2001


If they really want to take money out of politics, they should start by taking politics out of money. (from nolobby.com)
posted by frednorman at 11:26 AM on March 19, 2001


As a politically interested person myself, I fully intend to donate money to political causes at some point in the future. I think, however, that there should be low caps on individual's contributions (if this is free speech then everyone should have the right to talk just as loudly), an elimination of contributions by organizations and public monies as the primary source of campaign funds. This would allow each candidates voice to be equally heard, the voters could decide based on their content not their volume.
posted by Octaviuz at 11:33 AM on March 19, 2001


So at what point do "political favors" become "services rendered"?

Conservatives have been hounding the Clintons on accepting campaign money for pardons. But what I find a lot more disturbing are policies being pushed by Dubya that will benefit large contributors to his campaign.

For instance: "bankruptcy reform" that will make it harder for credit card holders to seek bankruptcy protection courtesy of MBNA, Dubya's biggest contributor; a reversal on Dubya's energy policy, thanks to $3.8 million in soft money from the coal industry; and a rollback of workplace ergonomic regulations that will benefit companies like UPS, which donated $1 million.

So why, pray tell, is Clinton in the wrong and Dubya in the right? What really is the difference between personal and corporate favors for campaign contributions?
posted by rklawler at 11:34 AM on March 19, 2001


So at what point do "political favors" become "services rendered"?

When there's a clear link showing that some campaign contribution led directly to the "political favor" in question.

Conservatives have been hounding the Clintons on accepting campaign money for pardons.

No, everyone has. There's almost nobody in Washington that's been willing to take Clinton's side on the pardon flap.

But what I find a lot more disturbing are policies being pushed by Dubya that will benefit large contributors to his campaign. For instance: "bankruptcy reform" that will make it harder for credit card holders to seek bankruptcy protection courtesy of MBNA, Dubya's biggest contributor,

As well as one of the biggest contributors to political campaigns period. MBNA had no qualms about spreading their money around quite freely to both sides of the aisle. And if you'll take a peek at the votes in the House and Senate on this issue, you'll see that huge numbers of Democrats voted for the "reform" bills. Extra fun fact: This bill passed just a few months ago as well, but Clinton pocket-vetoed it. Attempting to focus the blame for this squarely on Bush's 2000 campaign when the bill would have already been law if Clinton had bothered to sign it, and when it's been Congress's idea all along, is a touch disingenuous.

I don't know about the energy policy thing; I haven't paid attention to it. But being from West Virginia, I'm aware that there's much more to the coal argument than the left usually likes to bring up. It's much cleaner these days than most people think, it's an absolute necessity for our nation's current energy needs, and since hyperenvironmentalist California is in the middle of rolling blackouts as I type this, I should note that West Virginia is a net exporter of power thanks to its coal usage. (And if Gore hadn't been (properly) perceived as anti-coal by so many West Virginians, he probably would have won the state (which is heavily Democratic) and thus the White House.)

and a rollback of workplace ergonomic regulations that will benefit companies like UPS, which donated $1 million.

That ergonomic bill was one of the single most flawed pieces of legislation to come along in eons. Every Republican in DC, and many Democrats, have been wanting it dead since the moment it came into existence. As did practically every business in the United States, so you might as well just universally blame every incorporated company or corporate officer donated to anybody, not just UPS. And, by the way, those regulations were singlehandedly EOed by Clinton, without any of that messy "letting the people decide" that the left thought was so important when the Electoral College kept Gore from winning.

So why, pray tell, is Clinton in the wrong and Dubya in the right? What really is the difference between personal and corporate favors for campaign contributions?

The legality, if any damning evidence eventually comes up proving any of the pardons were bought. Accepting money to perform official government acts is expressly illegal, even when it comes to absolute presidential powers. Campaign contributions, while they may not look very nice, are almost never direct quid pro quo offers, and very hard to prove even in the rare cases that they are. And your examples would be almost impossible to prove, since they're about things that for which most elected officials had proven, on-the-record strong opinions about well before Bush took office.
posted by aaron at 1:28 PM on March 19, 2001



This would allow each candidates voice to be equally heard.

That's the thing, though: It wouldn't. It would only allow the candidates' voices to be heard as much as the news media wanted them to be heard. Whether you believe the news media has a conservative/corporate slant or a liberal slant, almost nobody believes they're truly objective and impartial. So with all campaign spending equal, the candidates will be at the total mercy of the media, who will have absolutely no restrictions on how much coverage they give to one candidate over another, no matter how blatantly slanted.

And since nobody is calling for limits on how much the media spends on its coverage (and that is indeed what they do, spend money to cover candidates in whatever biased proportions they damn well please), how can we call for limits on everyone else?
posted by aaron at 1:33 PM on March 19, 2001



Dubya-D-40First, I thought I would do my part to add to this discussion with this little bit of procrastination-produced-parody.

Just trying to spread the meme a bit further (if someone with more Photoshop-experience wishes to produce a better version of this graphic, perhaps with altered text in the features bullet-list, and perhaps a cap that looks like Dubya's head, but with the red straw sticking out of his nose (for example), feel free).

As for the issue at hand, I'm generally with aaron... more regulations are only further hampers to our freedom of speech. If you will recall, the Bush campaign tried to force the guy behind gwbush.com to file FEC disclosures as a PAC because his expenses to create and maintain that parody site were over $1000. The more regulations that are in place, the more tools the government will have to use against political speech it does not like. Almost any political speech, especially in regards to actions of Presidents, could be construed as campaign speech, and thus regulated under election contribution law. It's a slippery slope, folks. We need less regulation, not more.


posted by daveadams at 1:45 PM on March 19, 2001


Campaign contributions, while they may not look very nice, are almost never direct quid pro quo offers, and very hard to prove even in the rare cases that they are.

So the difference is really just that Dubya's policy decisions are a lot more difficult to spot than Clinton's pardons.

And your examples would be almost impossible to prove, since they're about things that for which most elected officials had proven, on-the-record strong opinions about well before Bush took office.

But of course. The campaign contributions were poured in well before Bush took office. ;)
posted by rklawler at 2:05 PM on March 19, 2001


It would only allow the candidates' voices to be heard as much as the news media wanted them to be heard.
A fact which seems to slip the minds of both viewers and broadcasters is that the airwaves belong to the people of the USA and are leased to the media be the FCC.
In my plan (which is not the product of my own genius but has been proposed by greater minds than my own), radio and television stations would be required to set aside equal blocks of time for free campaign advertising (they would not be allowed to put the Taxpayers' Party on at 2:39 AM) this both solves the problem of equal access and reduces the amount of money needed to run for office.
As for the concentration of the news editors, while they are expected to be fair and impartial, the Bill of Rights gets in the way of mandating how many minutes and seconds they should dedicate to each candidate. (This is a good thing, I'm rather fond of the freedom of the press.)
posted by Octaviuz at 2:32 PM on March 19, 2001


not be, by the FCC
The spellchecker obviously doesn't understand what I'm trying to get across.
Wait...
Doh!
posted by Octaviuz at 2:36 PM on March 19, 2001


The robber baron piggies are just transparently carving off more pieces of the public pie for themselves, and you idiots are bickering over who's the least slimy, Bush or Clinton.

I don't understand how a person can, in good conscience, defend the ability of big corporate entities to pour huge amounts of cash into the political system.

What good comes of it? How can you deny the bad that comes of it? Why do you insist that greed plus more greed in the end produces moral goodness?

The idiocy is staggering.... The stench of the blind religious fanaticism burns my airbreathing passages....
posted by TheShovel at 2:45 PM on March 19, 2001


Almost any political speech, especially in regards to actions of Presidents, could be construed as campaign speech, and thus regulated under election contribution law. It's a slippery slope, folks. We need less regulation, not more.

While free speech is arguably our single most important right under the constitution, this isn't a case of some people not being allowed to express their political opinions. They're spending millions of dollars to broadcast these opinions to millions of potential voters. This money involved makes politicians too susceptible to special interests. If it were just free speech, I would agree that it shouldn't be regulated. But this isn't about expression; millions of dollars are at stake. This much money needs to be carefully regulated.
posted by Loudmax at 10:17 PM on March 19, 2001


Aaron: Let me get this straight. You posted an anti-bankruptcy post last week. And now you're taking up for their ability to shower anyone with cash, on either side of the aisle? Money will always find a way, you can argue, but . . . do you have any other ideas? Or are you just going to yell and scream bloody murder to yourself and people on mefi, etc. about such deeply flawed bills as the bankruptcy one when they pass, as they are sure to, in the very near future?

Not a few people had been taking advantage of bankruptcy laws, sure, by the way. Even though rates of filing for bankruptcy have gone down over the past year, they'd risen considerably in previous years. So the bankruptcy case was not strictly quid pro quo. It was a case where one could seriously argue that something needed to be done. The big money gets involved and skews the process (or makes a preemptive strike, in pressing for legislation in a certain hot policy area before others do.)

A related area that could stand some legislation: Getting poor folks hooked on loathsome high-interest credit and ruining their lives through check cashing schemes, etc. Alan Greenspan briefly brought this to the American public's attention a year or two ago, saying it needed to be studied. There are far too many Americans who've funded middle-class-to-lavish lifestyles through such unfathomably sleazy operations. I doubt campaign finance reform would fix the problem in and of itself. But why does no one take up the case against these glorified loan sharks that they with anything remotely resembling seriousness? Why are credit card forms sent out en masse to college students? Why do I get a different card offer every week? This sort of crap wasn't considered kosher 15, maybe 10, years ago.
posted by raysmj at 10:18 PM on March 19, 2001


The idiocy is staggering.... The stench of the blind religious fanaticism burns my airbreathing passages....

Very persuasive, there, Shovel.
posted by kindall at 10:41 PM on March 19, 2001


Also for the record, don't know about Bush's backing (the linked story says nothing about it, except that he's talked to the two primary sponsors), but Mary Landrieu, although "flexible," is hardly a raging conservative. Hagel, in turn, is a moderate conservative, very blah, grey, etc. Sounds like a bill that's an attempt to get around the possible Constitutional problems with McCain-Feingold. The thing to watch is amendments.
posted by raysmj at 10:51 PM on March 19, 2001


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