Thursday, May 30, 2002

No Matter How Hard I Reform, I Just Can't Get Clean…

Have the Democrats screwed themselves over for 2004 by backing McCain-Feingold? The New Republic's Franklin Foer seems concerned. Since Republicans have long had the lead in hard money contributions, Democrats may have to scramble for alternative sources (and destinations) of cash when the new campaign finance law takes effect. Though Foer makes the Republicans' advantage sound more daunting than it probably will be in the '04 cycle, the dodges and strategies for getting around McCain-Feingold that he details are perfect examples of what campaign finance reform opponents told us all would happen: the same money will flow to new groups with new names and organized under different sections of the tax code. "Reform" will not rid politics from the influence of money - big, small, hard, soft, or otherwise:

"There are two main tasks previously accomplished with soft money that McCain-Feingold will require the DNC to hand off, in large part, to new entities: get-out-the-vote efforts--involving everything from direct mail to yard signs--and 'issue ad' campaigns in support of candidates. To deal with the former, the party is likely to revamp a group called the Association of State Democratic Chairs (ASDC). Currently, the ASDC is a little-utilized appendage of the DNC. 'Four to six of the state parties are nothing more than post office boxes,' one operative told me. 'Its only claim to fame is that it's the place the Watergate burglars broke into.' But the DNC hopes that with roughly $10 million in seed money from the AFL-CIO, this group can be transformed. Soon after November 6, party operatives speculate, it will hire refugees from the DNC and become something like a shadow party, opening its own state offices and running most of the party's get-out-the-vote operation. Labor could give the ASDC vast sums because the association would sever its affiliation with the party and reorganize itself under '527' tax status--a loophole in McCain-Feingold that allows political advocacy groups to accept and spend unlimited amounts, provided that they don't 'coordinate' with campaigns and that the money goes into neither party nor candidate coffers."

Breathe easier, good government reformers. Now that those checks are made out to the Association of State Democratic Chairs rather than the Democratic National Committee, we can stop worrying about corruption. In fact, not only is it reform, it's an economic stimulus package. Since the campaign activities that used to be coordinated by one entity now must be legally performed by three or four different groups, the job market for political hacks, fundraisers, and media flaks has never looked better. We DC kids are more recession-proof than ever.


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