Monday, July 07, 2003

CFR Revisited: One of the things I disliked about the drive toward campaign-finance reform was that its most ardent promoters seemed to have a distaste not for corruption, but for money in politics in general -- and, in particular, money that the other side raised. The current fuss over Bush's $200 million target for '04 seems proof. Byron York makes the case at NR in a way that leads me to believe I was right:
"It's the most cold-blooded and efficient way of raising money in the history of politics," Charles Lewis, head of the Center for Public Integrity, says in Canada's National Post. "These aren't your average Americans. They're the most well-heeled interests, with vested interests in government."

Bob Herbert of the New York Times calls Bush's fundraising dinners "events at which the fat cats throw millions of dollars at the president to reinforce their already impenetrable ring of influence around the national government."

Is any of it relevant criticism? Does it even rise to the level of our attention? York:
That's the kind of rhetoric that was used when rich people and corporations gave seven-figure soft-money donations. Now, with contributors limited to $2,000, all of it hard money, the critics are still using the fat cat argument.

But by any standard of measurement, they're simply wrong. George W. Bush's GOP is the party of the little guy.

A new study by the Center for Responsive Politics found that in the last election cycle, people who gave less than $200 to politicians or parties gave 64 percent of their money to Republicans. Just 35 percent went to Democrats. On the other hand, the Center found that people who gave $1 million or more gave 92 percent to Democrats — and a whopping eight percent to Republicans.

Which would you call the party of fat cats?

So, as usual, it's just rhetoric. The Democrats, the original advocates of CFR, are only bothered that the law hasn't slowed down Bush's fundraising. God knows it slowed down theirs. They'd like you to think they pushed CFR for principled reasons. (If they were so willing to put the good of the country before re-election, wouldn't they push term-limits legislation too?) What they really hoped was that the political mileage of the issue would be more beneficial than the fundraising drawbacks. They didn't count on Bush being just as unprincipled and signing a law that he (at least during the 2000 race) clearly regarded as unconstitutional, simultaneously stealing the issue for himself for a victory and robbing the Dems of the political hay they thought they'd make with the issue. To top it off, you can be damn sure nobody in the White House was unaware that CFR would give them a tremendous fundraising advantage.

Bush fudged, triangulated, and cut loose his principled supporters on this one like . . . well, like Clinton might have done.

No comments: