“Accentuating the Positive” in Campaign Finance Reform

by - November 26, 2013

Advocates of increased regulation have reacted partly by alleging corruption where they can. Often the corruption they are claiming is really corruption of the campaign finance law itself. The Supreme Court calls it circumvention, and it becomes a form of corruption argument which runs as follows: the law is supposed to prevent corruption or its appearance; the law is being skirted in some fashion; and so the skirting of the law leads back to corruption. Many assumptions are built into this argument. It has certainly led to the distasteful situation in which disagreements over the application of law are cast as confrontations between those bent on preventing corruption and those recklessly encouraging it. These arguments go on and on with no productive conclusion in sight. Meanwhile, they may have crowded out attention to what truly troubles many observers about the role of money in politics. The demands of fundraising cut deeply into the time for legislating or contact with constituents or whatever else voters imagine they have elected their representatives to do. Officeholders speak forcefully to this point. The ones who deny that they are corrupted by fundraising do not dispute that they dislike having their hands out, “dialing for dollars.” It is time consuming, diverts energy from official responsibilities and, thrusting them into the role of supplicants, it is found to be (at times) demeaning. When voters have exhibited little trust in government, the spectacle of officeholders seeming to tend around the clock to their supply of campaign cash can’t improve the civic mood.

“Accentuating the Positive” in Campaign Finance Reform - Bob Bauer

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