Carter has been prophetic in his writings about the Obama campaign’s fundraising methods and challenges. That said, I didn’t know President Obama was not already engaged in a super PAC. Why wouldn’t he be? Republicans have been saying for two years that Obama and the Democrats will have a huge financial advantage. You need an organization chart to follow who can give what money under what guise in today’s regulated campaign environment. I have not yet seen an account of what the unions and other assorted left-wing groups will spend, but I assume it will be massive.
The cumulative effect of the so-called campaign finance reforms of the past several years have produced some bizarre unintended consequences that are not good for our two-party system or for our democracy. The only organizations that have been successfully captured, regulated and limited are the candidates’ campaigns and the political parties. Individuals and organizations can escape any limit and even be anonymous, thus displacing the role of America’s political parties and allowing the campaigns to have plausible deniability of any attacks or half-truths that infect the political atmosphere. The net effect of all this is that no party has a particular advantage. Why don’t we call a truce and stop pretending that the public good is being served by allowing these anonymous contributions, which fall outside of the oversight and accountability of the candidates and the political parties? Secrecy is the enemy of fair politics.
Both parties should agree to another round of campaign finance reform that produces an environment opposite to what we have today. Let’s let the parties and the candidates take all the money they want to, and let’s have contributions disclosed on the Internet in real time, specifically forbidding anonymous contributions. Stop pretending that campaign finance reform has accomplished any good civic purpose. The current system breeds cynicism within the public and creates an environment in which there could be nefarious, under-the-table collusion between our politics and very deep pockets. Obviously, the 2012 cycle is lost, but it’s not too late to produce a new set of ground rules for 2014 and beyond.
Since no one can defend the status quo, both sides should be willing to acknowledge the obvious and re-empower campaigns and our parties.
Money and politics are here to stay. I would love to hear from some readers on how they think that relationship should be better managed and disclosed.