Friday, July 25, 2003

Death Knell

News reports indicate that the Democrats will not re-appoint campaign finance reform supporter Scott Thomas to the FEC. Instead, they have opted for a McCain-Feingold opponent, labor lawyer Robert Lenhard (WaPo story). I have always had mixed feelings about campaign finance reform, as it has been structured with an emphasis on contribution limits and expenditure caps (in some states). In a perfect world, we would have instant disclosure so that people woud know exactly who is behind a candidate and what their motives might be. I always thought it was a bit ironic that as we lament the influence of money in politics and the disproportionate time candidates spend raising cash, we impose rules that make it more difficult to raise money, thereby making politicians spend even more time dialing for dollars.
I have never been crazy about the idea of public financing of campaigns, largely because I see other spending priorities that are not being met with limited government dollars. But also there is something repulsive to me to think that my tax dollars might go to a candidate who I oppose or loathe, or even worse a candidate who is racist or homophobic. Imagine a scenario in which a Farrkhan or Santorum gets tax dollars to run a campaign, but your local school cannot afford enough text books. How long could such a system last?
So back to my point. I wonder if this is the death knell of campaign finance reform? I also wonder how this action will play with the Democratic base, who overwhlemingly support(ed) reform. Is it better to lose with principles than to win without?


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