Charles Krauthammer

     WASHINGTON -- You wanted campaign finance reform. You got campaign finance reform. McCain-Feingold promised to take the money out of politics. If you believed that, you deserve what you got.

     And what you got is an avalanche of money into politics this year as George Soros, Democratic big shots and, to a lesser extent, Republican money men (Republicans are slower on the uptake) get into the business of ``independent'' political expenditures.

     All that McCain-Feingold did was make it impossible to give huge personal contributions to political parties. But if you have far more money than you can ever hope to spend, what to do? Buy another Gulfstream V? No. Play an even more important role in politics by bankrolling your very own ``527,'' a tax-code loophole that enables the fat cats to fund their own political advertising so long as they do not ``coordinate'' with the candidate.

     The ads have another restriction. They cannot advocate voting for anyone. I love that part, for two reasons. First, it produces comical scripts that say ``President Bush, friend of Halliburton, likes taking food from the mouths of orphans. If you think that this is not nice, write President Bush and tell him so.'' Of course, the ad buyers mean: ``Vote Kerry.'' But they cannot say so.

     Second, I like the poetic justice. The goo-goo do-gooders who endorsed campaign finance reform have another great cause: the awfulness of negative campaigning. Well, they have produced a system now that is practically designed to produce negative ads.

           So first you get Soros-funded Bush-the-monster ads. Now you get the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad (and book) accusing Kerry of falsifying his military record.

     The Democrats have reacted to the Swift boat vets with anguished and selective indignation. This assault was bankrolled by rich Bush supporters, they charge. No kidding. Where else would Swift boat vets get the money? With the exception of the romantic few who serially marry millionaire heiresses, Swift boaters are generally of modest means. Where are they going to get the cash to be heard? Harold Ickes?

     The Democrats next charge that the very idea of attacking the military service of a heroic American is disgraceful. On this there are two points. The ``heroic'' part is precisely what is at issue here, and the Swift boat veterans who themselves served honorably have some questions about it.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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