Naive York Times

December 2nd, 2007at 01:20pm Posted by Eli

Today’s NYT lead editorial is about the dire need for campaign finance reform, which is absolutely true:

By next Election Day, the two presidential nominees are expected to break the $1 billion mark in combined spending – a 50 percent rise over the outrageously high price of the 2004 campaign. Congressional races will total out at hundreds of millions beyond that, while party organizations and their mushrooming stealth operations will run up their own deluxe tabs.

Even if the Supreme Court has started treating the cash of wealthy corporations and special-interest groups as free speech, there are responsible ways to put brakes on a runaway money train that promises to generate little in the way of voter turnout or issue elucidation.

The Federal Election Commission, normally weighted with machine loyalists from the two parties, has to become more of an enforcer of the law than an enabler of law-evaders. It must crack down harder on such blatant abusers as the noxious “527 committees” of 2004 that tapped illegal fat-cat donations to pass off bare-knuckle partisan operations as tax-exempt initiatives.

(…)

A second needed measure harks back to the felonies of Watergate, which resulted in the creation of publicly subsidized campaign financing as an alternative to special interest and private donations. The option worked well for the major nominees for 30 years, but Congress failed to update its subsidy levels for inflation. That – and the frenzied, early and decisive primaries – finds most of the current candidates rejecting the $65 million it would provide as so much chump change.

A worthy bill to restore public financing’s relevancy is scheduled to be introduced this week. It is solidly bipartisan and bicameral, sponsored by Senators Russ Feingold and Susan Collins and Representatives Christopher Shays and David Price. The subsidy and spending formulas would be repaired to allow candidates to be competitive without plunging into the money maelstrom.

The measure would take effect in 2012, so there’s no good reason why the current array of presidential candidates – some of them already burned by tainted fat-cat donors – should not join Senator Barack Obama in endorsing this step back toward campaign sanity.

Oh, NYT, NYT, NYT. In 2012, whichever Democrat gets elected will be running for re-election, as will most of Congress. Do they really want to make it easier to run against them? This is the fundamental obstacle to campaign finance reform, and always will be: Laws are made by incumbents, and incumbents will never pass a law that benefits their future challengers.

Serious campaign finance reform can only get passed if public disgust reaches such epic proportions that opposing it becomes political poison that it overcomes the natural advantages of incumbency, and I don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever.

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Media,Politics


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