An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Hypocrisy on Parade

Campaign finance reform is intended to fix one of the great injustices of our time. Simply put, we have legalized bribery.

Now the arguments against limiting money into political campaigns, primarily that it limits our free speech, are reasonable and make sense. And I have the greatest respect for the work of the American Civil Liberties Union and share its dedication to our civil liberties, our rights. I also understand that arguments can be made that donations to political campaigns merely help you get access to policymakers, but anyone who looks closely can see the correlation between giving and getting.

Just for a moment, imagine trying to explain to someone from another planet why it's okay that our politicians take millions of dollars from special interests with business before those politicians in their roles as policymakers. Just try to explain with a straight face what the difference between that and the old-fashioned bribery we think no longer pervades our system. Can you?

In the end, though, the arguments of Common Cause and other campaigners for good government that the vast sums available to large corporations are skewing policy so dramatically against the public interest, that this is one of the times where it makes sense to limit political speech (if you even choose to characterize donations as speech). So the end goal should really be to take that disproportionate power away from those with the cash and to level the playing field, so that you don't have to be rich to run for Congress, or President, or any office.

And incidentally, the incredible powers of incumbency that ensure that Members of Congress and other officeholders are overwhelmingly reelected must be curtailed, their activities policed. That's why it is surprising to hear about congressional aides who campaign while on the government payroll and using public resources. The hypocrisy of some campaign finance reformers who use their staff to ensure their reelections is disappointing.