Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...


Tuesday, March 02, 2004  

Politics are corrupted by money. This is not a particularly debatable point. When Congress passed McCain-Feingold, everyone knew that politics would remain corrupted, but just a little less so. The bug in that particular ointment turned out to be that M-F addressed the little wrongs in campaign finance law--which Dems had mostly exploited--while ignoring the big wrongs (see Halliburton, Cheney, Iraq, secret energy meetings et. al.). Under the new campaign laws, the already advantaged GOP found their habits modified not much, while the hapless Dems saw their soft-money loopholes vanish.

But as the GOP predicted, money continued to flow and it found fissures in the law. For the Dems, these were the 527 groups (named for IRS tax code that regulates them), the most recognizeable of which is MoveOn. Of course, this means that the GOP, now selectively offended by this corruption, hopes the FEC shuts off the spigot.

The Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) Office of General Counsel yesterday proposed a tough set of rules to regulate independent groups that plan to spend tens of millions of dollars in soft money in this election year.

Yesterday’s proposal kicks off a two-month rulemaking process that Republicans and members of the campaign finance reform community hope will culminate in rules that significantly restrict the activities of these mainly liberal-leaning groups.

When rich people band together to fund political activity, it's legal. When poor people do it, it's corruption. Anyway, that appears to be the GOP line. (A radical notion is that it's all corruption. But thanks to the Supreme Court, which ruled money is speech, fixing the Nile River of cash flowing into GOP coffers is well nigh impossible. Best to stop the trickle flowing toward Dems, I guess.) Are there downsides to FEC regulation? You betcha.

"Some of the language is broad enough to sweep within it many nonprofits that are not involved in genuine electoral advocacy," said Elliot Mincberg, legal director of People for the American Way, a 501(c)4 that advocates on judicial nominees. "I believe nonprofits have to pay very careful attention to this to make sure the FEC is not able in the name of election reform to severely limit nonprofit advocacy."

The GOP will no doubt shed a few crocodile tears for the nonprofits and then push for the stricter controls. I wonder, will they remain as vigilent toward other potentially corrupting streams of money flowing into politics? Oh come on, what are you--a cynic?

posted by Jeff | 8:40 AM |
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