The real aim of campaign finance reform?

George Will has an interesting discussion of why Democrats have pushed so hard for campaign finance reform. I have written about the McCarthy and McGovern cases myself, and the explanation he gives seem plausible. But it would be nice if it were based on more than conjecture, even if it is quite plausible.

The modern drive for campaign finance "reforms" is usually said to have been initiated by Democrats in response to Watergate. Democrats did start it, but before Watergate, in response to their traumas of 1968.

That year, Sen. Gene McCarthy's anti-Vietnam insurgency disturbed the Democratic Party's equilibrium by mounting a serious challenge to the renomination of President Lyndon Johnson. McCarthy was able to do that only because a few wealthy people gave him large contributions. Democrats also were alarmed by former Alabama governor George Wallace's success in 1968, and they mistakenly assumed that Wallace, too, was mostly funded by a few very large contributions.

According to John Samples of the Cato Institute (in his book " The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform"), congressional Democrats began the process that culminated in criminalizing large contributions -- the kind that can give long-shot candidates, such as Vilsack, a chance to become competitive. Yes, the initial aim of campaign "reforms" was less the proclaimed purpose of combating corruption or "the appearance" thereof than it was to impede the entry of inconvenient candidates into presidential campaigns. In that sense, campaign reform is a government program that has actually worked, unfortunately. . . .



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