Reform hypocrisy

Posted: Apr 27, 2002 12:00 AM
It never did ring true when campaign finance reformers said their primary motive was to reduce corruptive money in politics. But reports of Democratic plans to exploit loopholes in the new law show an astonishing level of cynicism. Remember the reformers tirelessly contending that campaign contributions not only have the potential to corrupt politicians, but necessarily corrupt them? Congressman Gephardt went so far as to say, "What we have (are) two important values in direct conflict: freedom of speech and our desire for healthy campaigns in a healthy democracy. You can't have both." Don't miss the extremism of this statement. He was admitting that reform restricts speech, but implying that such a restriction is a necessary evil to ensure a "healthy democracy." Note that the corruptive influence of money is simply assumed. As a fallback argument, reformers maintained that even if money doesn't corrupt, it causes the appearance of corruption, which breeds voter cynicism. So, according to the reformers, either way, money is the culprit because it either corrupts or produces the appearance of corruption. But these arguments were suspect for several reasons. First, when someone tells you that he has been corrupted by money (or anything else for that matter) and in the next breath tells you that you must trust him to solve your problems, you have to be crazy to believe him. Either he's been corrupted by money like he says and should not be trusted to handle anything, or he is lying about it for ulterior purposes, which means he's otherwise corrupt, and you shouldn't trust him anyway. Secondly, while reform was touted as a panacea for money corruption, reformers had to have known that opponents were correct when predicting that money would find a way around the ban. So it's hard to swallow that their motive was to end corruption. Well, the reformers have already shown their true colors. Before the ink was dry on the reform bill, Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe began feverish efforts to raise soft money for a new $30 million Democratic Headquarters. And in March, Democrats raked in $4.5 million of soft money at a $10,000 a-head dinner. When asked about the obvious hypocrisy of these activities, Senate Majority Leader Daschle callously responded, "We've got to play by the rules we have now ... I'm not going to tie one or both arms behind my back and expect to compete effectively with my Republican colleagues." Yes, I realize that Republicans are engaging in similar efforts to raise soft money before the ban goes into effect, but most of them at least opposed the bill. Besides, I thought corruption was the problem, Senator, not the Republicans' fundraising advantage. Which is it? Are you saying that if Democrats raise oodles of soft money this one last time, it will not be corrupting or that it is just another necessary evil -- this time to counter Republican corruption? If you buy this lame excuse, then how do you rationalize the Democrats' latest shenanigans? The Hill reported that Democratic congressional leaders want their top donors to redirect their campaign contributions to special interest groups, "thereby allowing them to wage costly election-year battles that their party will no longer be able to afford" because of the new reform law. The Hill adds, "The overall amount of money spent on elections is not likely to diminish." The Washington Times confirmed that Democrats have formed the Progressive Donor Network (PDN) "to take advantage of a loophole in the new law." Michael Lux, PDN's president, brazenly admitted that the network was designed as "a force to compete with right-wing money." And listen to what Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer said about this new strategy to raise money for special interest groups. "It's more important now than ever because there's no soft money. You need grass roots to make up for the money you're not going to be able to raise in soft money." So there you have it. They have every intention of continuing to go after money with a vengeance, even after the law goes into effect. Reformers insisted that limitations on free speech were imperative to get big money corruption out of politics, but now we see this was a ruse. They merely used the law as a tool to reduce any fundraising advantages that Republicans may have had. Now, thanks to the reformers, we've restricted political speech in draconian proportions, but done nothing effectively to eliminate the money they viewed as being evil enough to warrant the restrictions. Shame on all of them.