Is campaign finance reform still worth fighting for?
“Should a family hard hit by the recession take a back seat in our government to a couple of billionaires?” It’s one of the first statements uttered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today, regarding his bill to curb campaign finance spending. The measure would call for Congress and states to limit money that is raised and spent on election campaigns. It would also curb the impact of the increase in campaign spending from the recent Supreme Court decisions.
The “meat” within the bill is solid and this legislation would fix major issues of money in politics.
It also has no chance in hell of succeeding, thus making the bill a complete joke for three reasons:
1) We are eight weeks away from the 2014 Midterms. Most of that money has already been allocated for this election cycle.
2) This bill doesn’t have a chance of getting a 2/3 vote in the Senate. I won’t even entertain the idea of it getting to the House.
3) Democrats have as much – maybe even more – to lose as Republicans if campaign finance reform were ever to pass.
Not to mention, Senator Harry Reid himself would have been hurt immensely during this campaign cycle, if it were not for the existence of super PACs.
So the real question remains, why introduce this bill in the first place?
Well, like most things in politics, the term “campaign finance reform” has become a rallying cry for many Democrats as of late. Similar to how Republicans have linked the term “Obamacare” to represent government intrusion, “campaign finance reform” has become a similar phrase for many liberals regarding people like the Koch Brothers and how they use their money to manipulate political campaigns. Yet the irony here is, during this election cycle, the Democrats raised more than their Republican counterparts thanks to the current campaign finance laws. Which actually gets to the heart of the problem.
How can campaign finance reform become a legitimate reality when the people in office, got into office, using the current campaign finance laws?
Expecting Congress to legitimately push for campaign finance reform isn’t logical because inherently it goes against their self-interest as politicians. As of right now, everyone currently in Congress has a system of funding that gives them an inherit advantage during re-election. Asking them to push for campaign finance reform, would be asking them to break down that inherit advantage they have created.
Yet there have been instances where politicians had pushed – and actually passed (!!!) – legislation for campaign finance reform. One of the most cited examples comes from 2002’s Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (or better known as the McCain-Feingold Act). The legislation curbed a party’s use of “soft money” (aka money that isn’t subject to federal regulation) in campaigns and put tighter standards on issue advocacy ads (which was later overturned by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United v. FEC decision). However, it’s important to remember that McCain-Feingold was only possible because of bipartisan support.
So is campaign finance reform still worth fighting for?
While there are contradictory studies showing that money only has a tiny effect on the overall vote, most research confirms that money can grant you access to issues. Which can be terrible for a democracy.
Though as history has shown us, it takes bipartisan support for campaign finance reform to become a reality. So with the current state of bipartisanship between Democrats and Republicans, campaign finance reform will be nothing more than a catch phrase for the time being.
(Photo Credit: Cartoonist Thomas Nast)