What would it really take to impose any kind of campaign finance regulation across the board?
Spending limits, for example. Wouldn’t you have to bind and gag the candidates at a certain point? Campaign finance laws say, for example, don’t do x .
Now, if the candidate then goes on to do x minus y , is he then violating the law, at least in spirit? I credit Mickey Kaus with making this point recently about the Coleman for Senator campaign in Minnesota. Kaus, in turn, credits the observations of one Eric Black. Kaus writes that “Norm Coleman was able to communicate publicly what it might have been illegal (under campaign finance laws) for him to communicate privately namely that he really didn’t want the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee to run negative TV ads against Mondale.”
Our political system is now one where the little guy can get stomped by the same rules the major players bypass with throat-clearing and smoke signals. Kaus, Black, and probably you too have come to realize what should have become obvious to everybody over the 25 years since the Watergate era and that first flurry of campaign finance reform.
Namely: You can’t run a free campaign in a free country if your next move must depend not on what you need to do to get your message across, but on what some regulation tells you to do.
If we’re really that afraid of money and influence, we’ve got to stop printing dollars and we’ve got to outlaw campaigns. But I don’t want to go that route.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.