Is Public Financing Dead?
Bush, Dean, and now Kerry have opted out. Clark indicates he would if he could but he can’t. Is the Great Hope for clean elections dead in the water?
Junior bailed because his strategy of selling off the govt to major corporations is working like a charm, so what does he need with PF? He expects to raise an obscene $$200MIL$$ to run on, enough to buy every vote in the Electoral College with enough left over to present each member of his staff with a new yacht. The PF limitations would just get in his way.
Howard Dean bailed because, he said, he has to be able to compete with Bush.
Kerry bailed because, he says, Dean did:
“I wish that Howard Dean had kept his promise to take federal matching money but he did not,” Mr. Kerry said. “He changed the rules of this race, and anyone with a real shot at the nomination is going to have to play by those rules.”
So three of the major players have abandoned the funding mechanism that once promised to prevent the rich from buying the WH. Is this it? Are we all done with fantasies about honest elections and level playing fields?
Bush never seriously considered voluntarily limiting his fund-raising in order to stay in line with the PF laws and prevent the Presidential election from becoming just another commodity sold on the open market like pork bellies or toaster-ovens. In fact, there’s no evidence he ever considered it period, seriously or otherwise. The option apparently never entered his head. After all, it was his Justice Dept that argued to the Supreme Court that money was free speech. Why should it occur to him to prevent something he doesn’t believe in? To him, elections are commodities like any other and the “free market” should prevail (Translation: like mansions in Beverly Hills, elections belong to those who can afford to buy them).
Dean, who is acting like a man already looking past the nomination to the general election, can’t afford to wait until after the primaries to crank up the funding machine, not if he’s going to have any reasonable chance of competing with Junior’s financial juggernaut. He has to start planning and collecting for the GE now, or his potential nomination becomes an exercise in futility before he’s even won it. Frankly, the same could be said for all the other candidates who have any real hope of winning.
So the ripple effect has begun and soon makes its way to Kerry, who is forced to raise the ante in order to compete with Dean who was forced to raise the ante in order to compete with Bush. And so on. Like the arms race, this is a vicious cycle in which there are no winners and the electorate is the biggest loser of all. Bush has single-handedly forced national elections to become nothing more than sales pitches and marketing ploys in which he who can buy the most toys wins.
This isn’t going to be pretty, especially for those of us who need govt to be something more than a plaything of the rich.
So is PF dead or just temporarily unplugged? It looks dead to me, but the Boston Globe thinks, “Maybe not.” In an editorial yesterday, the Globe suggested a series of changes that could make PF relevant again:
[R]epairs to the system should be made well before 2008.State-by-state spending limits are unrealistic for the current system with its crucial early contests and should be eliminated.
The $45 million individual spending limit for the primaries should be raised substantially.
Provision should be made for spending in the period between the effective selection of the nominee and the party convention. In this campaign, a Democrat in the system could secure the nomination by March but reach the $45 million limit and be defenseless until the national convention in July.
Costs could also be curtailed by mandating low-cost TV time and postage.
Their proposals might make some sense in the world as it used to be. But that world doesn’t exist right now. For the time being we are living in Bizarro RepublicanWorld, a world where the House Majority Leader feels perfectly free to announce openly that he’s going to use a children’s charity as a cover for his fund-raising, even going so far as to produce a full-color brochure–with pictures–detailing the lavish parties, yachting trips, and even door prizes that the money supposedly contributed to the charity will be used to furnish, without any fear of a public outcry, without having to worry about repercussions of any kind.
In such a world, there is Zero hope that today’s Publicans will suddenly see past the riches to the common good the PF was meant to protect just because the air-time is cheaper.
For Publicans, Money Talks and the rest of us can Shut Up.
So? How do you like our Brave New World?