November 10th, 2008
|07:54 am - A sad side effect of the past election|
Because of the effect of Obama's fundraising and spending of more than 600 million dollars, compared to the paltry 84 million dollars McCain was allowed to spend due to spending limits imposed by the public campaign financing system he used (and Obama did not), this past election has driven a stake through the corruption-fighting heart of public funding of presidential political campaigns.
No future politician in his right mind will ever, ever, EVER, EVER allow himself to be shackled by public financing spending limits, now that Obama has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that yes, we can buy a presidential election.
Current Mood: discontent
Current Music: "Rubicon" by VNV Nation
I used to do tax returns for both H&R Block and for the IRS VITA program. Getting people to understand what the $3 check box for the Presidential Election Fund was about was very difficult. Getting people to understand that checking it wouldn't reduce their refund was even more difficult. I believe both tax sites essentially instructed preparers to just not even bother trying, and leave it unchecked.
I feel the Presidential Election Fund is broken, and has been for a while. While the McCain Campaign itself was limited to $84M (less, actually, since he borrowed money during the pre-Convention campaign using the public funds he would be getting as collateral), the rules didn't restrict the RNC from spending all they could raise Between the R&D NCs, the 527 organizations, and similar groups, campaign finance laws can be effectively bypassed. The Presidential Election Fund's primary purpose wasn't to make campaign financing fair, or to even the playing field, but more politics.
I also think that the Democratic party, lead by Dean and now Obama, have been taking tremendous advantage of using the Internet as a fund-raising tool. From reports I've heard, the average contribution to the Obama campaign was in the range of $85, certainly less than $100. For $600M raised, that works out to well over 6M campaign contributors, or 2% of the population. I doubt McCain had nearly that many contributors -- heck, I doubt Reagan had close to 2% of the population giving money to his campaign. This is what I see future campaigns trying to emulate.
(I'll admit that the $85 average contribution leaves a lot of wiggle-room. How many of those 6M contributers were $2300 contributers? What's the median and mode of the contributions? If the median was $10 and the mode was $2300, there could still be a problem. If the median was $100, and the mode was $150, that's less of a problem.)
I expect that in 2012 the Republicans will try the same fund raising playbook the Democrats used this year. If that's not successful, or not significantly better than what they have now, I expect they will try to raise an issue of fund raising fraud on the Internet and try to pass legislation restricting internet fundraising
The Obama campaign claims to have raised large sums from small donations, mostly in the under-$200 range, but a significant number of those donations are questionable
, and the lack of accountability for these small donations is disturbing, since that article shows how easily fraudulent donations can occur, that in sum total are in excess of the allowed limit and may well be entirely illegal, coming from citizens of other countries. (One prominent example of which was Obama's own aunt, who as a citizen of Kenya was forbidden by law from contributing to her nephew's presidential campaign, yet did so repeatedly and easily through his website.)
Until fraud like that I mentioned above is eliminated as a campaign funding method, it will be far too easy to bypass the law here by giving large numbers of "under the reporting limit" donations via the internet and giving the ostensible appearance of broad-based popular support, when such grassroots fundraising is in fact far less in reality than the campaign finance reports would seem to indicate. Add in the ease of illegal foreign funding (and therefore influence) in a campaign, and the potential for political chicanery goes off the scale.
The most dismaying thing about the entire process, is that the overwhelming majority of the stunning amount of money spent on the election by both camps was essentially spent on Media, mostly television ads to get out both campaigns' messages.
To be seen and heard, internet everywhere not withstanding, the sheer COST of being seen on the National Stage invites a certain amount of corruption and dodgy finances in traditional campaigns. The specific achievement of the Obama campaign, was that most of the contributions were raised by a grassroots effort. Previously most campaigns were primarily sponsored by big business and special interest and wealthy friends with big checks. This had the net effect of regardless of a elected official's politics, they found themselves beholden to the lobbys and special interests that PAID for their campaigns. But this new method of fund-raising, in mass amounts of small contributions of ordinary people, had the net effect having supporters feel that they have a stake in the candidate, and now the President Elect owes his alliegance to the people who elected him actually being the SAME PEOPLE who largely financed his campaign instead of the affluent few.
I do recall one spectacular dodge... when MicroSoft was in some heat with the Department of Justice, having lost the anti-trust suit of the century and facing corporate dismemberment. Gates and co, informed every employee of MS that they had all made the maximum contribution to the RNC, in their names. Apparently was actually legal, but just barely. The law never expected such over the top dodgy work, and with such outrageous sums. I suppose the opinion was "who would EVER do anything that crazy and expensive?" But still, that was PettyCash for MS, and less than they spent on (losing!) Lawyers. And the Bush Administration's DOJ all but dropped the case with a financial slap on the wrist and a barely emforcable injunction. Amazing stuff.
I think you might want to read my reply to the comment above
with regards to the questionable nature of a large number of the financial gifts given to the Obama campaign's ostensibly-small-donation-funded warchest that funded one of the largest advertising blitzes in modern politics. Reports such as that certainly don't make me
feel as though certain candidates are less beholden to deep-pocketed special interests than others are.
Unfortunately, given the necessity of advertising in modern politics, the candidate with the larger supply of funds to draw on has decidedly better odds -- "the race may not go to the swiftest or the contest to the strongest, but that's the way to lay your bets."