Richard Cohen’s defense of unlimited money in the political system and the speech it presumably represents [“Cash’s powerful megaphone,” op-ed, Jan. 17] included an assumption that isn’t always met in the current presidential campaign. Mr. Cohen cited an example from 1968 in which he knew who was speaking (Eugene McCarthy) and who facilitated the speech (Howard Stein, Martin Peretz and others). One wonders if Mr. Cohen would be so sanguine if the speaker were “Citizens for America” and the donors were hidden within a maze of tax-exempt organizations and shadow corporations.
Sheldon Adelson chose to reveal his efforts to aid Newt Gingrich this year, but many other wealthy donors may not say who has gotten their money. Fully assessing political speech requires knowledge of the speaker’s identity and his or her potential motives. Our campaign finance system, particularly since the Citizens United v. FEC decision, doesn’t guarantee this transparency.
Sheila Krumholz, Washington
The writer is executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
Regarding the Jan. 18 editorial “A less-than-super fix,” on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s statement that candidates should be allowed to collect unlimited donations:
Mr. Romney is right on this issue. The 1974 campaign finance legislation was a cure that was worse than the disease. The support of campaigns by identified and diverse millionaires (the Pews, the Mellons, Marshall Field, Stewart Mott) was preferable to that by $2,000 contributions solicited in incessant phone calls by legislators or “bundled” by operatives and financiers.
The old system allowed anyone commanding the confidence of one or two wealthy contributors to effectively compete (such as Eugene McCarthy in 1968); the new one limits candidacies to people already well-known and to self-financed megalomaniacs.
The Citizens United v. FEC case mitigated some of these consequences, but the contributions it allows foster hypocrisy, anonymity and irresponsibility, The Post’s suggestions for reform, including “tighter rules on coordination” between candidates and super PACs, are unlikely to be enacted and are not preferable to the system prevailing before 1974.
George W. Liebmann, Baltimore