Obama leftwing contradictions: One example, campaign finance regulations

Rightwing Nuthouse has an interesting discussion here. Last year Obama promised take public financing during the general election if his Republican opponent did so also. McCain also made the pledge. Now Obama calls his pledge an "option" since he is finding it so easy to raise money. McCain made his pledge when he was the lead Republican candidate last year and Obama did the same when it looked like he had little chance of winning the nomination. I have no desire to maintain public financing of presidential campaigns, but I have to believe that these attacks will hurt Obama to at least some extent with this Democratic base. Possibly McCain is helping out Clinton right now more than Clinton is.

As an aside, this basically shows what I wrote in 2004: that presidential campaign finance regulations are dead.

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The Emptiness of Campaign Finance Reform

The Drudge Report mentions that the Clinton's may be spending their own money now on Hillary's campaign. Note how the WSJ recently reported:

Former President Clinton stands to reap around $20 million -- and will sever a politically sensitive partnership tie to Dubai -- by ending his high-profile business relationship with the investment firm of billionaire friend Ron Burkle. . . .

Obviously Clinton has gotten a lot of money from other sources so there is no need to single out Burkle, but Burkle obviously can't donate $10 or $12 million to Clinton's campaign. Yet, if he pays Clinton for work that isn't very obvious, Clinton can then turn around and spend it on a campaign. Does it really matter that Burkle can't give the money directly to Clinton?

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More Romney Flip-flops: Campaign Finance Reform

Here Romney is running for the US Senate in 1994
Here is Romney now.

See this for other information on his views on public financing of campaigns.

See one of my earlier posts here.

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The courts are now into determining if something is a "movie"

Because of campaign finance laws the courts are involved in determining whether a movie is a movie or a campaigns ad:

Citizens United had hoped to run the television advertisements in key election states during peak primary season. The court ruling means the group must either keep its ads off the air or attach a disclaimer and disclose its donors.

So do Michael Moore's movies rate being classified as a movie? Is it just that Moore's movies are being released in an odd numbered year? Can he promote it in any way during an election?



Another reason why Campaign Finance Regulations help Bloomberg

I came across an interesting news story today about Bloomberg possibly running for the presidency:

So far, the surprise outcomes of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have added urgency and strength to the Bloomberg operation, Schoen said.

"The uncertainty in the nominating process on both sides makes it more likely that Mike Bloomberg will explore a candidacy," he said.

I agree with this, but for possibly different reasons than the person here. Take the extreme case. If a nominee is not picked for a party until the party convention in August, that person will have little time to raise what would likely be a hundred or two hundred million for the general election. The less time that the Republicans or Democrats have to raise money, the easier it will be for Bloomberg to win.

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More thoughts on Campaign Finance Reform

For those who think that a deadlocked national convention will let the Republicans turn to another candidate, my advice is to forget it. This time it will be necessary for candidates to forgo public financing of their campaigns and campaign finance regulations make it extremely difficult to for a new candidate to put together a national mailing list of campaign donors.





Brought to you by Campaign Finance Regulations: Bloomberg's Presidential Run

My book Freedomnomics goes through the impact of campaign finance regulations, but one of the bigger impacts is how it has worked to give wealthy candidates an advantage. I won't go through all the arguments here, but one simple point is that if Bloomberg spends $500 million or $1 billion as has been discussed, donation limits mean that there is no way that even the combined Democratic and Republican expenditures can match that.

Buoyed by the still unsettled field, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is growing increasingly enchanted with the idea of launching an independent presidential bid, and his aides are aggressively laying the groundwork for him to run.

On Sunday, the mayor will join Democratic and Republican elder statesmen at the University of Oklahoma in what the conveners are billing as an effort to pressure the major party candidates to renounce partisan gridlock.

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So much for Campaign Finance Regulations

Let me get this straight. You can't give soft money directly to political parties, but you can give it to this group being run by close associates of Hillary Clinton and they will give the money they raise to progressive groups that will help her win next year. Boy, I am sure glad that we passed those regulations to close those loopholes.

So what, exactly, is the Fund for America? According to its filing, the group's purpose is "to accept and disburse funds in order to create a lasting progressive majority voice in public affairs." . . .

Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance advocate who has fought for years to end the use of soft money in political campaigns, said he has strong suspicions about what the group plans to do: "This is the organizing vehicle for the Democrats efforts to inject soft money into the 2008 presidential election." . . . .



One reason why anonymous political donations should be allowed

This deluge of corporate dollars comes at a time when congressional Democrats aren't the least bit bashful about their agenda. Should they win the White House they'll raise tax rates, pursue a trade protectionist policy under the guise of "fair trade," and enact as much of Big Labor's wish list as they can, from doing away with secret ballots in union certification elections to piling on more labor, environmental and health regulations. "There's almost nothing in the Pelosi/Reid agenda that we favor," one long-time industry government affairs representative tells me. "But we're still giving the bulk of our money to them." . . . .

When Republicans were in control, Ms. Pelosi and company denounced the "K Street Project," run by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. They protested that corporate lobbyists were allowed to become a fourth branch of government--and in some cases their protests had merit, as Republicans curried favor with money interests.

Meanwhile, Democrats under Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Schumer have quietly erected their own K Street Project, and employ some of the same strong-arm tactics they once deplored. "I've never felt the squeeze that we're under now to give to Democrats and to hire them," says one telecom industry representative. "They've put out the word that if you have an issue on trade, taxes, or regulation, you'd better be a donor and you'd better not be part of any effort to run ads against our freshmen incumbents." . . .



So should this be considered a campaign contribution?

This just goes to show how hopeless campaign finance regulations are. Moveon.org's credibility will be important in determining the impact of its ads during the campaign.

Internet search giant Google has rejected ads that are critical of far-left advocacy group MoveOn.org. MoveOn caused a national stir last month after The New York Times gave it preferential treatment for the infamous “General Betray Us” public message.

The banned ads were placed by the campaign of Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, for her re-election. The reason given for the ads' removal was that they violated Google’s copyright infringement policy. . . . .

While the Google people are obviously strong Democrats anyway, here is some additional information from John Gibson that makes this contribution to the Democrats even more interesting:

Now Gore and MoveOn are, if not joined at the hip, at least extremely simpatico. Gore also sits on the board of Google. Its $600 a share stock has made him so rich he could fund his own presidential campaign with one check.

Why do you think Google has denied Republican Collins ad space to fight back against MoveOn, which is trying to put her out of business?

Google says her ad against MoveOn violates some policy or other and they have to tell her no. Translation: It's Al Gore's Google in this situation and Al Gore is more interested in MoveOn getting its anti-Bush, anti-war message out there than helping a Republican fight the Soros MoveOn machine to hold onto to her Senate seat.

MoveOn has been a very, very Clinton-centric organization, of course. But do you think maybe, just maybe, MoveOn might be interested in the candidacy of the environmental saint Al Gore if she should stumble?. . . .

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Newt Gingrich's Potential Presidential Run is Victim of McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Regulations

Here is a discussion of how the Federal campaign finance laws have prevented Newt Gingrich from running for President. So much for campaign finance laws encouraging competition. My book Freedomnomics made similar points regarding the impact of campaign finance regulations.

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NRA's political donations small compared to MoveOn.Org

WASHINGTON — Here's a pop quiz on money in politics: Who gives more money to federal candidates, the National Rifle Association or MoveOn.org?

Answer: MoveOn.

And it isn't even close.

In the last two election cycles, MoveOn.org Political Action Committee spent more than $58 million in pro-Democrat political advocacy, according to Federal Election Commission records.

In just the 2006 election cycle, MoveOn.org spent $27 million in advocacy to elect a Democratic majority in Congress and used its formidable fund-raising clout to propel numerous Democratic challengers to House and Senate victories. By comparison, the NRA PAC donated $11 million in 2006.

"They give away and raise about three times as much as the National Rifle Association," said Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics. "A tremendous amount of money, especially when you consider how quickly they came on the scene."

Thanks to Robert Aldridge for sending me this.

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New Op-ed on Why the Press Likes Campaign Finance Regulations


So does this count as a political donation by the NY Times?

If Tapper's numbers are correct, MoveOn.org paid just 38.89% of a full-cost, nationwide ad, or a 61.11% discount off of a full-rate ad. While I'm fairly certain that nobody pays "sticker" prices, 61% off seems a rather sweet deal.

If this was to a political campaign, would this count towards donation limits? I assume that campaigns take out ads, but does the NY Times charge everyone the same amount for ads.

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An example of how restrictions on campaigning help better known candidates

HILLARY Rodham Clin ton's presidential cam paign hints that agree ing to refrain from campaigning in outlaw Florida and Michigan primaries is a noble sacrifice bowing to party rules. Some of the news media bought into that, with The New York Times reporting: "The decision seemed to dash any hopes of Mrs. Clinton relying on a strong showing in Florida as a springboard to the nomination." Rather, her forbearance looks like a windfall for the Democratic front-runner.

Democratic consultant Bob Shrum, who does not have a candidate this time around, correctly interpreted the decision by Clinton and her two principal competitors, Barack Obama and John Edwards, to follow the Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules. On NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday, Shrum said: "That actually, in a perverse way" could "help Sen. Clinton. If no one campaigns and she wins . . . the primary in Florida, wins the primary in Michigan, that could have a knockout effect." . . .

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Why isn't the press covering Norman Hsu as the Democrat's Jack Abramoff?

Of course, Jack Abramoff gave money to both Republicans and Democrats, but the press played it as a purely Republican scandal. Hsu is on the run again and I couldn't find a story about this on CNN. If it was Abramoff, I believe that this story would get round the clock coverage.

California businessman Norman Hsu, a former New York apparel executive and major contributor to Democratic candidates and causes, failed to appear for a bail reduction hearing Wednesday, leading to speculation that he again is a fugitive from the law, FOX News has learned. . . . .

--Hillary Clinton is keeping virtually all the money raised by Hsu for her campaign. Hsu "is listed as one of the top 20 Democratic fundraisers in the country and is one of Clinton's "HillRaisers" -- people who rustle up at least $100,000 for Clinton's campaign, The Wall Street Journal reports." The money she is keeping is the money that Hsu raised for her campaign, but the problems with this money is pretty obvious:

On top of that, among those who have "bundled" their contributions along with Hsu's is one San Francisco family of seven adults whose home is small and under the airport flight path, jobs are average and $213,000 in donations are closely coordinated with Hsu's.

Hsu's relationship to the Paw family apparently goes back a decade, and Winkle Paw, 35, is an employee of Hsu's New York companies, The Wall Street Journal was first to report. Barcella told The Los Angeles Times the Paws have their own cash, and "Norman never reimbursed anyone for their contribution."

Another New York family of three that runs a plastics packaging plant in Pennsylvania and is tied to Hsu donated more than $200,000 in the last three years, the Times states.

Clinton adviser Howard Wolfsen told The Times that Hsu has been a longtime donor to the party: "During Mr. Hsu's many years of active participation in the political process, there has been no question about his integrity or his commitment to playing by the rules, and we have absolutely no reason to call his contributions into question or to return them."

-- Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy is keeping his donations from Hsu.

So apparently on are many others. My own belief is the very fact that so many democrats are keeping this money shows that there hasn't been the same pressure on them as there was on the Republicans. Is Hsu merely serving as a conduit for money from China? He is a Hong Kong businessman.

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Even TV shows may run afoul of campaign finance laws

Well, I am only surprised that this problem hasn't happened previously.

The show, called “Independent,” aims to launch next year in time for the real presidential election, though it’s still network shopping.

The concept -- as presented in a hyperbolic press release predicting the show “will help reshape the face of American politics, including the next presidential election” -- is clever. Contestants will deal with issues proposed by MySpace users and the show’s viewers that will require interactions with supporters, protesters and activists.

“Over the course of the series, through a combination of Internet-powered direct democracy and the broad reach of TV, viewers will be empowered to put a genuine stamp on which issues they care about most and identify the one who truly represents them,” says the release, which predicts the winner will become “the nation’s next great politician.”

That person will get a $1 million prize, but not to keep. Instead, the release says, the winner must choose how to spend it from “a list of options, all political in nature.” . . . .

Here’s where the reality “candidate” might run into real problems with the really complex real laws governing how much real candidates, committees and parties can raise and spend for real elections.

Federal candidates can give as much of their own money as they want to their campaigns. (That’s why political parties recruit millionaires to run for Congress and why the possibility of a Michael Bloomberg independent presidential run is so intriguing.) But the issue here is whether the $1 million would truly belong to the winner, with no strings attached.

If “the winnings becomes the personal property of the winner,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer for the firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, “he or she can do with it as they wish, including running for federal office.” . . . . . . . .



New Op-ed on Campaign Finance Regulations at FoxNews.com

Campaign finance regulations have wrecked havoc on the American election system, entrenching incumbents and reducing voter turnout. But the worst may be yet to come in 2008. If news reports last week are correct, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is planning on spending $1 billion to win the presidency. He would vastly outspend Republican and Democratic nominees, even if they forego public financing.

Campaign finance laws have resulted in lots of millionaires getting elected to office. Wealthy individuals, who can only give $2,000 to someone else who is running for office, face no donation limits to their own campaign.

For example, Steve Forbes wanted to donate to Jack Kemp's presidential campaign and if Forbes could have donated what he wanted, Kemp may have run for president. But he couldn’t, so he ran himself. . . .,

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Washington State "Supreme Court says radio talk not a political donation"

This is a relief, but it also indicates how hopeless campaign reform is. You can't advertise a position, but you can own a radio station to take those positions.

The state Supreme Court said in an opinion released this morning that KVI talk show hosts did not need to report their advocacy for an anti-gas tax campaign as an in-kind political contribution. And the court has reinstated a countersuit filed by the No New Gas Tax (NNGT) campaign against local governments that initially sued. . . .

The opinion was unanimous. The majority opinion was written by Justice Barbara Madsen and signed by Chief Gerry Alexander and justices Tom Chambers, Charles Johnson, Susan Owens, Mary Fairhurst and Bobbe Bridge. Justices Jim Johnson wrote a concurrence, which Justice Richard Sanders also signed, saying: . . .



Can the government ban campaign ads 60 days before an election?

There is a big campaign finance case to be heard by the US Supreme Court today.

The disputed regulation barring corporate and labor TV and radio ads as much as 60 days before an election is part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, widely known for its Senate sponsors, Mr. McCain and Russ Feingold (D., Wis.).

The provision aims to keep corporations and unions from using their wealth to unfairly influence elections, says Scott Nelson, an attorney with advocacy group Public Citizen. If the FEC loses, Mr. Nelson says, corporations and, to a lesser degree, unions, could spend "hundreds of millions of dollars" in the run-up to the next election for negative ads. . . .

My own research has shown that these various regulations protect incumbents from competition. But I have a hard time believing that interest groups taking out ads within 60 days before an election is not protected political speech. If individuals can't speak out on issues before an election what else is left to free speech?



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. . . .



Another huge hole in campaign finance laws

So does this mean that the Saudi's are financing Hillary Clinton's campaign? I can't give a candidate $10,000 for their campaign, but I can pay you for a talk and then let you spend the money on yourself. Given all his other ways around the campaign finance laws, I can't wait for Soros to take advantage of this. Of course, he probably figured this out long ago.

[Bill Clinton] has earned $40 million in the past six years in speaking fees.

Goldman Sachs paid Clinton $650,000 for four speeches, while the banking firm, Citicorp paid
$250,000 for just one speech. But U.S. companies didn't represent the largest of President Clinton's speaking fees—those came from overseas clients — such as a Saudi firm that paid Clinton $600,000 for two speeches and a real estate group run by an official of China's communist party paid him $200,000.

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For the first time presidential candidates not accepting federal funds for general election


Registering and Regulating Churches as Lobbyists?

This is another not particularly surprising expansion of campaign finance reform. This wasn't aimed at churches per se, but at the attempts to get around the other regulations generally.

Under the House version of the Bill, a church or organization would be considered a “grassroots lobbying firm” subject to this law if the group attempted to influence the general public to voluntarily contact federal officials in order to express their own views on a federal issue. Furthermore, many large churches and ministries utilize mass media to communicate their message. Under this House Bill by Nancy Pelosi, these communications, as long as they are directed to at least one person who is not a member of the church, would fall under this new Bill. Finally, if the church spends an aggregate of only $50,000 or more for such efforts in a quarterly period, they are now required to register as lobbyists. Many ministries spend $50,000 or more a month for air time.



The Federal Election Commission now watching car bumper stickers

If this guy was unfunded, it sounds as if he had plenty of empty space on his car. It seems as if the opportunity cost of it was zero.

NASCAR driver is rebuked for Bush sticker

It’s no secret that NASCAR drivers skew Republican, which is fine with the Federal Election Commission, just so long as they don’t display their preferences where anyone can see them.

In a decision announced Tuesday, the FEC sent an “admonishment letter” to Kirk Shelmerdine Racing. Kirk Shelmerdine, a former pit boss for the late Dale Earnhardt, has been an unsuccessful, underfunded and undersponsored driver. He has never finished higher than 26th.

So back in 2004, in a move perhaps designed to draw some attention to his car, he placed a “Bush-Cheney ’04” decal on his rear quarter panel, which was otherwise unencumbered by advertising. Democratic activist Sydnor Thompson complained to the FEC, and the agency found that Shelmerdine “may have made an unreported independent expenditure or a prohibited corporate expenditure.”

Former commissioner Bradley Smith dissented in one of the case’s early votes and blogged about the result this week. He has written that in reference to the FEC’s $250 expenditure limit, “evidence is strong that the market value of Shelmerdine’s rear quarter panel was approximately $0, give or take $249.”