Here's a handy way to figure out which party expects to lose big in the next election: If its leaders are complaining about the unfairness of the other side raising buckets of money, that party is in trouble. If party big shots can't help but exaggerate the other side's money advantage, well, whoa, Nelly.
Enter Vice President Joe Biden. Last week, Biden told Bloomberg News, "I was amazed at the amount of money, this $200 billion of money that is -- where there's no accountability. When I say accountability, we don't know where it's coming from. There's no disclosure, so the folks watching the ad can't make a judgment based upon motive when you say it's paid for by so-and-so."
Be it noted, Biden meant to say $200 million. Everybody makes mistakes.
Biden also predicted the Democrats would keep control of the "Senate for certain, and I believe we'll keep control of the House" -- as I said, everybody makes mistakes.
There is, however, something off about Obamaland getting on its high horse over campaign financing. Why, it was only two years ago that then-Sen. Barack Obama reneged on his pledge to campaign within the public-financing system -- and blamed the Republicans for forcing him to do it. It was only two years ago that Obama used his fundraising prowess as evidence of his inevitability to win.
Now, in 2010, Obama and company are reduced to crying poor -- even though the Democrats are out-fundraising the Republicans. As Politico reported, the Democratic National Committee and its House and Senate fundraising branches arms have out-raised the GOP and are spending millions on TV ads.
The Center for Responsive Politics found that conservative independent groups spent $166 million to $71 million for liberal groups, as of Sunday. But we don't know which side will have spent the most by Nov. 2.
White House adviser David Axelrod went after the Chamber of Commerce earlier this month, calling its $75 million campaign "a threat to our democracy." But as the Wall Street Journal reported last week, the public employees union AFSCME is spending $87.5 million on 2010 campaigns.
Apparently, it's not a threat to democracy when government-employee unions -- which prosper under deficit spending -- bankroll Democratic campaigns. But when the chamber strikes back, it's a threat.
Funny, the Obama administration wasn't so threatened when the chamber was ready to cut a deal not to come out early against cap-and-trade legislation.
Republicans have morphed on campaign finance issues as well. For years, the GOP has pushed for fewer campaign-finance laws -- because they don't work -- while arguing that the voters would be served best by laws that mandate donor transparency.
Now, American Crossroads -- of Karl Rove fame -- has a spinoff organization, Crossroad Grassroots Policy Strategies -- or Crossroads GPS -- that does not require donor disclosure. "Everybody is truly afraid that the Obama administration is going to target them," an anonymous potential donor told Politico.
There are few sure things in politics, but the sure things keep getting surer. The side that complains about fundraising is losing. No matter how many campaign finance reforms Washington passes, both parties will find their way around them. When politicians tell you that they want transparency, they really mean it -- until they don't.
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