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Thursday, April 6, 2006
527 Reform
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:38 am

Via WaPo: Campaign Finance Measure Approved

The House approved campaign finance legislation last night that would benefit Republicans by placing strict caps on contributions to nonprofit committees that spent heavily in the last election while removing limits on political parties’ spending coordinated with candidates.

The bill passed 218 to 209 in a virtual party-line vote.

This illustrates one of the many pitfalls of campaign finance “reform”-the fact that the party in power can work to construe the rules in a way that aids their tactics in fund-raising over those of their opponents. This is not a good thing, insofar as what we should be wanting in a democracy is open competition.

The whole 527 situation itself is a response to the convoluted rules that BCRA (aka, McCain-Feingold) created and I have no doubt that if 527s were “reformed” out of existence that there would be a new way devised to acquire and spend money on politics. As long as there is a First Amendment, a way will be found to gather and spend money on political speech-it would be far better to acknowledge that fact and craft policies that recognize that reality.

Until Congress fully acknowledged the Scotty Rule of Campaign Finance Reform, the nonsensical rules-making will continue.

Ultimately, it may not matter, as the bill probably won’t become law. Still, you have to love politics:

Although the measure’s prospects for approval in the Senate are considered slim, House Republicans wanted a vote on what they could describe as “reform” legislation. At the same time, GOP leaders sought to embarrass Democrats by making them vote in apparent support of the use of soft money in federal campaigns.

Filed under: US Politics, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, March 2, 2006
Court Questions on the Campaign Finance Case
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:00 am

Via the NYT: Vermont Campaign Limits Get Cool Reception at Court

The chief justice challenged the attorney general’s assertion that money was a corrupting influence on Vermont’s political system, the state’s main rationale for its law. “How many prosecutions for political corruption have you brought?” he asked the state official.

“Not any,” Mr. Sorrell replied.

“Do you think corruption in Vermont is a serious problem?”

“It is,” the attorney general replied, noting that polls showed that most state residents thought corporations and wealthy individuals exerted an undue influence in the state.

The chief justice persisted. “Would you describe your state as clean or corrupt?” he asked.

“We have got a problem in Vermont,” Mr. Sorrell repeated.

It certainly does beg the question, does it not? If there is an obvious “problem” why haven’t any prosecutions been brought?

h/t: Althouse, who also notes the new CJ’s insistence on precise language.

Thursday, February 23, 2006
Line of the Day
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:36 am

“The electorate’s dyspeptic mood about the nation’s politics reflects the fact that, as is frequently the case, the party in power in Washington has done much to earn a rebuke but the opposition party has done nothing to earn a reward.”-George F. Will

To which I say: yup.

The whole piece (which discusses gerrymandering and campaign finance reform) is worth a read.

h/t: OTB.

Monday, December 5, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:44 pm

Via the AP: Re-Election Cost Bloomberg $77 Million

That’ll affect the ol’ bank statement…

Filed under: US Politics, Campaign Finance Reform, 2005 Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Sunday, October 30, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:29 am

Via the AP: N.J. Governor Race Costing Near $1M a Day

New Jersey’s two multimillionaire gubernatorial candidates burned through $14 million in 18 days this month, according to campaign finance reports released Friday.

Democrat Jon Corzine outspent Republican Doug Forrester more than 2-to-1 during that time, the reports show.


Corzine has maintained a narrow margin over Forrester with less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election, according recent polls. Only New Jersey and Virginia are choosing governors this year.

Sounds like Forrester is getting more bang for his buck.

I must confess that I am somewhat surprised that the race is as close as it is-and not because of the money.

Filed under: US Politics, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
The Basics of the Charge
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:04 pm

More from the New York Times, we get the basics of the charge:

The DeLay organization was charged with accepting a contribution of $100,000 from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care and one of $20,000 from AT&T. A statewide business group, the Texas Association of Business, was also charged.

State law prohibits use of corporate contributions to advocate the election or defeat of state candidates, and prosecutors accuse the DeLay organization of engaging in a complex scheme to circumvent the law.

The seriousness of this, it seems to me (at first blush anyway) is going to be how much the circumvention was a “scheme” and how involved it actually as, and particularly how involved Delay was in the circumventing.

It seems likely that all of this will end revealing a great deal of convoluted attempts to stop the inevitable flow of money into campaigns. However, even if one isn’t especially scandalized by the use of corporate funds for campaigning (which is another issue), one cannot try to creatively avoid the law.

If anything, it seems to me that this whole case will underscore the labyrinthine nature of campaign finance rules and regulations.

Filed under: US Politics, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Monday, May 16, 2005
Of Interest
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:44 pm

Via Blogging Through The Tulips-on the FEC and the question of regulating political blogs.

Filed under: Blogging, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
More Evidence of the Futility of Campaign Finance Regulation
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:30 am

Via the NYT: Homemakers Are the Fat Cats. Who Knew? Their Husbands.

They are people like Helaine Gould of Long Island, who, when asked last week why she contributed $4,950 to Gifford Miller, the City Council speaker and a Democratic candidate for mayor, referred questions to her spouse’s real estate investment firm.

“That was handled through my husband’s office,” she said. “I’m not familiar with it.”

Among the elite group of about 600 people who have contributed the maximum to candidates for citywide offices in the November election, 62 described themselves as homemakers or housewives, an analysis of campaign finance data shows. They edged out chief executives and company presidents, who together numbered 60, as well as lawyers (57), real estate professionals (41) and celebrities, whose ranks include Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger and Magic Johnson.

In the world of campaign finance, influence-seeking contributors have long found ways around contribution limits. By enlisting relatives or co-workers to contribute, they can steer tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign; all of it is legal, provided that those writing the checks use their own money.


Hortense Schur, reached by telephone in Boca Raton, Fla., said her $4,950 contribution to Fernando Ferrer, a Democratic mayoral candidate, “was really not mine, it’s my husband’s. I don’t know much about it.” She was one of nine members of the Schur family, some of whom are involved in manufacturing and real estate in New York, who each wrote $4,950 checks to the Ferrer campaign.

I keep stating the Scotty Rule of Campaign Finance Reform, but no one is listening.

The bottom line is that we pretend to regulate the amount of money flowing into the system, when, in fact, we are doing no such thing. We obfuscate what is really going on, and even are willing to abridge the First Amendment, all in the name of name of “keeping the money out of politics” while no such thing is taking place.

We need a simple system that allows unlimited contributions and full, total, absolute disclosure. Let the voters decide if a candidate has been given too much money by the wrong people-we have a democracy after all.

At a minimum it is difficult for me to understand how anyone thinks the current system does anything but employ lawyers.

Filed under: US Politics, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The FEC, BCRA and Blogs
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:42 am

Via WaPo: FEC Considers Restricting Online Political Activities

The Federal Election Commission has begun considering whether to issue new rules on how political campaigns are waged on the Internet, a regulatory process that is expected to take months to complete but that is already generating considerable angst online.

The agency is weighing whether — and how — to impose restrictions on a host of online activities, including campaign advertising and politically oriented blogs.

This will, no doubt, send substantial ripples through the Blogosphere.

However, I will note (as I generally do in regards to stories like this one): why not get out of the business of regulating speech all together? That would certainly solve the more complex issues at play here.

I am only for one type of campaign finance regulation: full disclosure (i.e., who gives what and how much to whom and who pays for what).

As such I can see the following:

Should bloggers who work for political campaigns, for example, be required to disclose that relationship? Should their writings include a disclaimer indicating that they were paid for by a campaign?

Such disclosure seems fair; indeed I would argue that it is requisite.

Beyond that, however, the rest of this should be beyond regulation:

What if a campaign supporter links his Web site to a candidate’s home page? Is that considered a campaign contribution subject to government regulation? What if an independent blogger endorses a candidate? Or posts a campaign’s news release? Are those contributions?

If links are campaign contributions, then so it putting a sign in your yard, or a bumper sticker on your car (and cars in heavily urban areas are a greater contribution than if you live in the middle of nowhere). If posting a positive or negative statement about a candidate then so is saying such to your friends (and those with more friends are making greater contributions than others).

All of that is, of course, ludicrious—and so is regulating blogs.

Again: thanks, McCain-Feingold! Were it not for your genius, we wouldn’t even have to ask these questions.

Filed under: US Politics, Blogging, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here linked with FEC, Blogs and liberal hypocrisy
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
Speech Police?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:24 pm

Bryan S. of Arguing with Signposts has more on the FEC/BCRA/blogs business.

He rightly notes that despite protestations to the otherwise, the FEC is in the speech police business.

Of course the problem is that no one should be in the speech police business.


Filed under: Blogging, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here linked with More campaign finance "free speech" reform follies
Money for Speech for Me, But Not for Thee
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:30 am

If one wishes to understand the farce that is campaign finance reform, look no further than the following from the NYT, McCain Allies Want Reform (and Money)

In a small office a few miles from Capitol Hill, a handful of top advisers to Senator John McCain run a quiet campaign. They promote his crusade against special interest money in politics. They send out news releases promoting his initiatives. And they raise money - hundreds of thousands of dollars, tapping some McCain backers for more than $50,000 each.

The bottom line is that the Institute is esentially doing waht McCain-Feingold supposedly wnats to curtail: riasing large sums of money in large chunks, for example:

Donors said the institute had become more aggressive in recent months in its push for money. Though it is not required to do so, the institute lists all its donors on its Web site. This year, the organization began breaking them down by ranges of contributions, which showed the vast majority of its hundreds of contributors gave $500 or less. About 40 gave between $500 and $5,000, 8 gave up to $50,000 and 12 contributed above that level.

to use said monies to seek to influence public policy:

This may look like the headquarters of a nascent McCain presidential bid in 2008. But instead, it is the Reform Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to overhauling campaign finance laws and one whose work has the added benefit of keeping the senator in the spotlight.

The institute has drawn little notice, but it offers a telling glimpse into how Mr. McCain operates. In the four years since its creation, it has accelerated its fund-raising, collecting about $1.3 million last year, double what it raised in 2003, a sizable sum for a group that exists to curb the influence of money in politics.

Mr. McCain, the institute’s most prominent spokesman, defended the large donations as a necessary part of advocacy work, and drew a distinction between the progressive agenda of the Reform Institute and political efforts to which campaign finance laws apply. The institute is different, he said, “because it is nonpartisan and issue-oriented.”

You see, money in politics is good when it is raised and used for “good” things and that money is bad when it is raised for “bad” things.

Got it?

Of course-and since we mere mortals can’t tell when money is good or bad-we should let Congress make up more and more arcane rules to figure it our for us.

Here’s an idea: why not just let everyone raise as much money as they want and spend it on speech and then we could all, you know, listen to the debate and think about it and stuff and then make up, like, our own minds?

Filed under: US Politics, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here linked with McCain's "Straight Contribution Express"
Accidental Verbosity linked with Meanwhile, Steven Taylor has a radical idea.
Arguing with signposts... » Campaign Finance and blogs linked with [...] ely to get without getting rid of the McCain-Feingold apparatus. Personally, I agree with Steven Taylor and one of the commenters at MyDD: repeal the law, let the money flow, but require accu [...]
Saturday, March 5, 2005
Blogs, The FEC and McCain-Feingold
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:38 am

Regular readers know of my general disposition towards McCain-Feingold and campaign finance rules in general (if not, click and scroll), so I am quite interested in the breweing brouhaha over the FEC and blogs that has been bouncing aroung the Blogosphere the last couple of days (it all started with this intereview on CNET).

First off, the suggestion that a link can be construed as a campaign contribution strikes me as patently absurd (of course, I think much of McCain-Feingold is patently absurd, so we call all take that for what it is worth). Still, how is a link any different than putting a campaign sign in your yard or a sticker on your car? Are we going to say that citizens promoting a candidate equates to an in-kind campaign contribution? I should think not.

Second, the only way, it seems to me, that McCain-Feingold could reasonably apply to blogs would be those that have direct connections to campaigns in a coordinated fashion-otherwise I can’t see, ultimately, blogs being treated any differently than a personally produced newsletter or pamphlet or general political speech. Indeed, there is no way to apply McCain-Feingold to opinion-based blogs who simply support a candidate. The only blogs I can think of that might be affected would be Daily Kos and Blogs for Bush and the like, because of direct linkages to campaigns.

Third, ALL of this (just the fact that we are having this discussion at all) demonstrates the insanity of laws like McCain-Feingold and underscores why there should be no restrictions whatsoever on political speech.

Michelle Malkin has a good round-up of links on this issue.

What Attitude Problem? rightly notes “Attention all bloggers! The sky is not falling! I repeat: The sky is not falling!” and also has a number of links.

He links (and quotes) The Campaign Legal Center: Setting the Record Straight: There is No FEC Threat to the Internet wherein we find:

Mr. Smith’s comments are obviously designed to instigate a furor in the blogosphere to pressure Congress to reverse the court decision requiring that paid political ads on the Internet should be treated like any other paid advertisements. Mr. Smith has a right to try to win converts to his anti-regulatory philosophy, but he has an obligation to present the issues fairly and forthrightly, and his comments to CNET fail both tests.

It is also noteworthy that Michelle notes three FEC members who have pubically disagreed with Smith.

So really, despite the fact that I will take any opportunity to diss BCRA (i.e., McC-F), there doesn’t seem to be anything to get crazy about here vis-a-vis blogs.

Look: it seems clear that the FEC is trying to deal with the role of campaign money and advertisement via the Internet. That does not mean that the the FEC is going to start regulating blogs.

Filed under: US Politics, Blogging, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, February 3, 2005
FEC Raises Contribution Limits
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:24 pm

Via the AP: Campaign Donation Limits Get Boost

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday raised donation limits to compensate for inflation, the first time it has done so. That means congressional candidates and national party committees can now ask donors for more money.


Under the new limits, congressional candidates can raise $2,100 for their primary campaigns and another $2,100 for general-election campaigning from each individual donor. Previously, candidates could only ask individual givers for up to $2,000 for the primaries and another $2,000 for the general election.

National political party committees can now ask individuals to give up to $26,700 a year, an increase of $1,700 over the old limit.

The FEC also raised the overall amount an individual donor can give on the federal level.

A contributor can now make a total of $101,400 in congressional, party and political action committee donations during the 2005-06 election cycle. The previous two-year limit was $95,000.

The commission will index contribution limits for inflation again in 2007, when the next crop of presidential candidates can begin raising money.

Interesting, as I was unaware they were empowered to do that. Perhaps it is due to a provision of the copius BCRA.

Interestingly, if the original $1000 limit (which was raised to $2000 in 2002) was indexed for inflation it would be over $3000 (if memory serves).

Filed under: US Politics, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Friday, November 19, 2004
Kerry Campaign Finance Follies
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:58 am

In regards to timeouts in a football game, it is oft said that you can’t take them home with you. While it is possible to save campaign finances, taking them home with you (so to speak) is not too bright if one is engaged in a close race.

Kerry to Give Dems Leftover Campaign Cash

Under friendly fire, Sen. John Kerry likely will donate a substantial portion of his excess presidential campaign cash to help elect Democratic candidates in 2005 and 2006, advisers said Thursday.

Party leaders, including some of Kerry’s top campaign aides, said this week they were surprised and angry to learn that he had more than $15 million in accounts from the Democratic primaries. They demanded to know why the money wasn’t spent to help Kerry defeat President Bush or to aid congressional candidates.

I must admit, this kind of thing is baffling: how could the Kerry campaign allow that much money to go unspent? Clearly some of his former staff is wondering as well:

Several members of his own campaign staff said the cash should have been spent before the Democratic convention in late July to build political organizations in Ohio and Florida — or to court Hispanic and black voters in key states.

One member of Kerry’s inner circle of campaign aides said Thursday that the failure to spend the money cost the senator victory in a close election.

I am not certain that that is the case, as the spending of more money doesn’t necessarily translate into victory, but it certainly doesn’t help to keep it in the bank. This situation really does reek of mis-management.

This is similar to a story on Gore post-2000 (I blogged it here
and here) who had $6 million left in the bank.

Filed under: US Politics, 2004 Campaign, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Agreeing with Drum
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:50 pm

As unlikley as it may seem this close to the election, I agree with Kevin Drum’s basic assessment of BCRA (a.k.a., McCain-Feingold):

I have a feeling we should all be able to agree on one thing: that whole McCain-Feingold deal didn’t work out so well, did it?

Now, Kevin seems distressed by the fact that one of BCRA’s failings was that it did not limit the overall amount of money spent (nothing is going to do that, btw). I am by no means distressed by the amount. I find the twisted ways that the money must flow (e.g., 527s) in order to become speech to be problematic. I think it relieves the campaigns of responsibility for the message being disseminated.

Filed under: US Politics, 2004 Campaign, Campaign Finance Reform | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
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