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Jewish World Review April 4, 2001 / 11 Nissan, 5761

David Limbaugh

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Consumer Reports


Campaign finance reform fallacies


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE entire premise of the current crusade to "reform" campaign-finance laws is flawed in several important respects. There are also plenty of other problems with the proposed cure, McCain-Feingold, beyond its flagrant unconstitutionality.

The premise underlying the mania to restrict campaign fund-raising and spending is that the political process is corrupt and that imperfections in existing law are the primary source of the corruption.

But what evidence do the "reformers" offer to support their charges of corruption connected with campaign contributions? Despite being challenged on numerous occasions to substantiate his claims of rampant corruption relative to campaign-funding practices, McCain has never been able to produce any specifics.

Instead he resorts to generalities and emotionally charged indictments of every congressman. It is impossible to prove a negative, so when McCain says that all politicians are corrupt because of loopholes in current laws he cannot be proven wrong.

By making such sweeping allegations McCain shifts the debate from one based on reason to one grounded in emotion. The result is that facts take a backseat to preconceived notions.

In the first place, contrary to popular opinion, not every congressman is corrupt, nor is every campaign contributor. But much of the electorate is certainly willing to believe they are, especially when one with inside knowledge, such as Senator McCain, says so.

Unless McCain can come forward with some concrete proof, he ought to speak only for himself and perhaps, contributors to his campaigns. If he wants to call himself (and his contributors) corrupt, that's his business.

McCain and the reformers generalize that politicians base their policy votes not on principle rooted in ideology, nor on their constituents' preferences, but on the dictates of their major contributors. More and more empirical data is emerging to suggest that this simply isn't the case. It is true that contributors donate to candidates who share their ideology, but not that there is any causal connection between the contributions and the politicians' votes. I have contributed my share to various political campaigns, but I have never asked for something in return, and I don't suspect many of you have either.

By dealing in generalities, the reformers are able to capitalize on public misconceptions, such as that the Clinton-Gore campaign finance scandals were caused by loopholes in the campaign finance laws. The Clinton-Gore campaign finance abuses have served as valuable ammunition for the reformers, just like Watergate led to campaign funding restrictions in the '70s.

But legal loopholes had nothing to do with the Clinton-Gore campaign finance crimes. The unambiguous law -- the clearly controlling legal authority -- is that campaign contributions from foreign nationals are illegal. Clinton and Gore knew that and deliberately violated those laws. That's why they had to return millions of dollars of illegally acquired funds. Clinton and Gore also knew that under the existing law soft money was not to be commingled with hard money, but that didn't keep them from doing it.

The fact that they were never brought to justice is not because the laws were vague, but mainly because Janet Reno's Justice Department refused to enforce existing laws against her superiors (by recommending the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the matter, as urged by four separate officials working under her).

I don't think McCain and his fellow "reformers" want to deal with specifics because to do so would rob them of the most effective weapons in their crusade: public confusion and emotion. If the public understood that the current law already prohibited the Clinton-Gore excesses it would not be snookered into believing that yet more laws would prevent crimes of this type in the future.

By relegating the debate to an emotional level, facts are not the only casualty. Prudence is abandoned as well. The "reform" movement has been overtaken by an irrational zeal and artificial urgency. Far more pressing problems are being ignored or deferred.

This emotionalism also lends itself to an unrealistic expectation that the legislative remedy will be a panacea. In fact, it will most likely generate more problems than it solves, such as making the media even more powerful and restricting the very type of speech the framers were most anxious to protect.

Based on fraudulent premises, McCain-Feingold is an old-fashioned copout. To the extent that corruption exists, it is the fault of people, not inadequacies in the law.

I hoped with the passing of the Clinton-Gore era we would begin to graduate from such adolescent dodges. It's still not too late.



David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney apracticing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

04/02/01: How to destroy a nation
03/28/01: Double trouble for Dubya
03/26/01: Bush seeks Israeli security, not a peace prize
03/21/01: Bush tax cuts and Dem distortions
03/19/01: Celebrating disbarment
03/14/01: Campaign cold feet and Democratic hypocrisy
03/12/01: Missiles, berets, morale and diplomacy
03/07/01: The GOP and race revisited
03/05/01: Dems and the ghost of 2002
02/28/01: Common threads in Clinton pardons
02/26/01: Clinton defenders should apologize
02/22/01: Clinton woos media as Bush governs
02/20/01: Liberal idealism: Where have all the flowers gone?
02/14/01: The Clintons and selective media outrage
02/12/01: Bush's tax cut challenge: A historical view
02/07/01: Democrats' Dubya dilemma
02/05/01: Dubya is confounding the media
01/29/01: The Teamsters, the DNC and the reformers
01/29/01: The Old Limey
01/25/01: Clintonís disgraceful departure
01/22/01: Ashcroft: Principle above self
01/17/01: Justice for Riady?
01/15/01: Ashcroft: A hill to die on
01/10/01: Returning to the supply side
01/08/01: Reasons for optimism
01/03/01: Bush's daunting challenges
12/28/00: Ashcroft: A triumph for the rule of law
12/26/00: A tinge of revenge?
12/20/00: GOP: Breaking the race barrier
12/18/00: Civility doesn't require surrender
12/13/00: Al Gore: Innocent victimizer
12/11/00: Judicial restraint and ordered liberty
12/06/00: The four years war
12/04/00: Debunking Gore myths
11/29/00: Defending the smaller principles
11/27/00: Albert O'Gore and the little people
11/22/00: Doing 'anything to win'
11/15/00: Enough is enough, Mr. Gore
11/13/00: Al Gore: Thy country or thyself?
11/08/00: Bill and Al: Your time is up
11/06/00:The impending Bush mandate
11/01/00: Can't stop thinkin' 'bout tomorrow
10/30/00: George: Give Gore the ball back
10/25/00: Mr. Gore: A few more questions
10/23/00: It's the big government, stupid
10/18/00: Gore's down, so will he panic?
10/16/00: We're fresh out of new Al Gores
10/11/00: Gore: Fuzzy math = dirty politics
10/10/00:Gore: Renaissance man or unbalanced?
10/04/00: Where have you been, Albert Jr.?
10/02/00: Clintonís fragmented presidency
09/27/00: Liberal media doth protest too much
09/25/00: AlGore: Turning dreams into nightmares
09/20/00: Something fishy's going on
09/18/00: It's the liberalism, stupid
09/13/00: An open letter to open-minded cynics
09/11/00: The virtues of going negative
09/06/00: On a mission for marriage
09/04/00: Al Gore's 'Trivial Pursuits'
08/30/00: Lieberman and the paradox of liberal 'tolerance'
08/28/00: A campaign divided against itself
08/23/00: Al Gore's trickle-down populism
08/21/00: Prosperity without a clue
08/16/00: AlGore can run but he can't hide
08/14/00: When hate speech is OK
08/09/00: Bush: The pundits' enigma
08/07/00: GOP convention: Live or Memorex?
08/02/00: The first attack dog
07/31/00: The Cheney taint?
07/26/00: The anti-gun bogeyman
07/24/00: The raging culture war
07/19/00: Is Hillary 'Good for the Jews'?
07/17/00: How dare you, George?
07/12/00: Jacoby's raw deal
07/10/00: The perplexities of liberalism
07/05/00: Big Al and big oil
07/03/00: Partial-birth and total death
06/28/00: Some questions for you, Mr. Gore
06/26/00: Supreme Court assaults religious freedom
06/21/00: Waco: We are the jury
06/19/00: "Outrage" just doesn't quite cut it anymore!
06/14/00: Al Gore: Government's best friend
06/12/00: Say goodbye to medical privacy
06/07/00: Elian: Whose hands were tied?
06/05/00: Who, which, what is the real Al Gore?
06/01/00: Legacy-building idea for Clinton
05/30/00: Clinton: Above the law or not?
05/24/00: Not so fast, Hillary
05/22/00: Gore's risky, fear-mongering schemes
05/17/00: Can Bush risk pro-choice running mate?
05/15/00: Right to privacy, Clinton-style
05/10/00: Patrick Kennedy and his suit-happy fiddlers
05/08/00: Don't shoot Eddie Eagle
05/03/00: Congress caves to Clinton, again?
05/01/00: The resurrection of outrage
04/28/00: A picture of Bill Clinton's America
04/19/00: President Clinton: Teaching children responsibility
04/17/00: Elian, Marx and parental rights
04/12/00: Elian, freedom deserve a hearing
04/10/00:The fraying of America
04/05/00: Noonan: End Clintonism now
04/03/00: Bush: On going for the gold
03/29/00: Phantasma-Gore-ia
03/27/00: Treaties, triggers, tobacco and tyrants
03/22/00: Media to Bush: Go left, young man
03/20/00: Stop the insanity
03/15/00: OK Al Gore: Let's go negative
03/13/00: Deifying of the center
03/08/00: The media, the establishment and the people
03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
02/28/00: Bush's silver lining in McMichigan
02/24/00: A conservative firewall, after all
02/22/00: Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
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06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?

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