Thursday, February 14, 2002
Well, the House passed campaign-finance reform today. The bill is really nothing more than an incumbent protection act. The Shays-Meehan bill doesn't reduce the amount of money going into federal elections, it just redirects it. Unlimited donations to the national parties are banned. Using the Enron case as an example, apparently these politicians believe that they are influenced by money going not into their own pockets, but into their party's coffers. Does Congressman Joe Schmo from Podunk, Neb., really know exactly who is giving money to the Republican National Committee? Is he influenced by that donation? Can that kind of donation really corrupt him?
According to some political columnists, this change hurts those who would challenge incumbents because national parties are typically the only major donors who will seriously fund a competitive race.
The bill also raises the so-called "hard money" limits to federal candidates from $1,000 to $2,000. This is the only provision which I think is good. The $1,000 limit was set back in the mid-70s when $1,000 bought a lot more.
While banning donations to the national parties, the bill would allow state and local parties to raise and spend up to $10,000 in "soft money" for get-out-the-vote efforts and other miscellaneous things. Is this really reducing the amount of money in political campaigns? Before: Big Corp./Big Union gives unlimited money (well, not really unlimited, just whatever they feel they can afford) to the Republican/Democratic National Committee. Now: Big Corp./Big Union gives $10,000 to every single little piddly local party. $10,000 to the San Diego Democratic Party. $10,000 to the La Mesa Democratic Party. $10,000 to the Rancho Santa Fe Republican Party, etc. The bill says that these funds can't be used in connection with federal campaigns, but where is that line? Who draws it? Does saying: "Republicans are great! Democrats stink!" on the eve of an election qualify? How about the infamous "issue ads"?
All this does is make the money more of a pain in the butt to track. To figure out who's funding Bush's reelection campaign, instead of going to the RNC, newspapers or watchdog groups have to go to every single local party office.This doesn't make the process more open, it makes it tougher to find out who's bought whom.
Then these idiot politicians get so lazy and stupid that you just want to slap them. Shays-Meehan would prohibit unions, corporations or advocacy groups from running ads within 60 days of an election or 30 days of a primary. Why are they even wasting ink on paper for this. It's unconstitutional on on its face. I've heard no legal scholar or pundit that thinks this passes constitutional muster. It's also the most blatant of the incumbent-protection schemes.
If the Senate passes this, Bush would do well to veto it. He probably won't. When the Supreme Court hears the challenge that is certain to follow, they should force every congressman and the president to eat the paper that that provision is printed on. The court should never be bothered with something so obviously unconstitutional.