April 30, 2005

McCain Responds to Macklin. We respond to McCain.

Stephen Macklin wrote a letter a while back to, I believe, Senators McCain, Feingold, Leiberman, Shays and Meehan. (Maybe not Meehan -- don't recall exactly.) He recieved an email from Leiberman's office a short time later and, finally, has received his second response, via snail mail, from John McCain.

Steve addressed it (at the link above). And since I just can't resist, I'm gonna add some fiskilicious points of my own.

Dear Mr. Macklin:

Thank you for contacting me regarding campaign finance reform and “527 Groups”. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views.

As Stephen noted over at Hold The Mayo, his letter to the Senators didn't mention 527s at all, which makes it clear that this is a prefab letter sent out to anyone who writes Senator McCain about BCRA. Steve critiqued the response not only for it's content, but for how it failed to address his central points. I'm just gonna concentrate on the content of McCain's letter.

As you know, after seven years of sometimes fierce and vigorous debate on the issue, President Bush signed the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) into law on March 27, 2002. On December 10, 2003, the Supreme Court, in McConnell v. FEC, upheld the constitutionality of key provisions of BCRA dealing with soft money and electioneering communications.

As Stephen points out (yes, I've got something original to add, just gimme a minute), notice how the F for "finance" is missing from the abbreviated title. This Act's erosion of speech was never meant to be restricted merely to when financing is involved. But, we'll get to that later. McCain continues:

This legislation ended the practice of the President, party leaders, and members of Congress from soliciting huge donations from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals. BRCA's overriding goal was to reduce the corrupting influence of unlimited soft money contributions to political parties, usually solicited by federal candidates and office holders.

I'll never be one to deny the corruptive influence of large-money donations. I mean, I voted for Ross Perot in '96. But, BC[F]RA goes a lot further than that -- effecting (or now, trying to effect) all donors, large or small.

When people complain that they can never be heard because they're "only one voice" my blood pressure rises. If you want your voice to carry then join a chorus. One singer can't sing Handel's Messiah at the Christmas pageant; s/he wont be heard in the back rows. But get a hundred singers on the platform and their strains will be heard half a mile away.

There are associations of people for nearly every imaginable interest. Some bigger than others, of course. The NRA, NAACP, AARP, ACLU, Swiftboat Vets for Truth (SVT), MoveOn.org, etc etc, all organized to spread their concerns and influence lawmakers.

But, the key to removing corruption is to remove the corruptible. Let's say you're a New Jersey Democrat and your choice boils down to a Republican or Bob Torricelli. Yer screwed. Incumbants rarely face challenges in their own party's primaries. This is a travesty. Parties don't like to have their candidates "weakened" by the challenges that neccessarily result from a primary season, so they just end up sending the same old blithering faces back to Washington without being held to any serious accountability by their own party members or their constituents.

If the choice for a New Jersey Democrat is between a Republican or a corrupt Democrat, the Democrat will usually win. Torricelli found himself in a position of being the exception, not the rule, and opted out. (While I deplored the extra-Constitutional way in which Frank Lautenburg was able to replace Torricelli on the ballot, at least all them New Jersey Democrats had a relatively clean candidate to vote for.)

Anywho, McCain continues:

There can be little doubt that this new law has improved the system. Despite predictions to the contrary, the parties have thrived, raising as much in limited donations from individuals in this cycle as they did in hard and soft money combined in 2000.

That, in and of itself, is a big plus. But, at what cost? And what more cost is Senator McCain willing to burden us lowly av-er-age bears with? Now we get to the meat of the matter:
While BRCA has proven successful, the recent growth of political committees commonly known as “527” groups, referring to their exempt-status under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, have emerged as a new vehicle for raising and spending illegal soft money. [Emphasis added]

McCain calls 527s "illegal". Let's look at McConnell v. FEC, shall we?

[BCRA] §323(d) prohibits national, state, and local party committees, and their agents or subsidiaries, from "solicit[ing] any funds for, or mak[ing] or direct[ing] any donations" to, any organization established under §501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code that makes expenditures in connection with an election for federal office, and any political organizations established under §527 "other than a political committee, a State, district, or local committee of a political party, or the authorized campaign committee of a candidate for State or local office." 2 U. S. C. A. §441i(d) (Supp. 2003). The District Court struck down the provision on its face. We reverse and uphold §323(d), narrowly construing the section's ban on donations to apply only to the donation of funds not raised in compliance with FECA. [Emphasis added]

In other words: So long as there is no coordination between the 527s and the political parties, or candidates themselves, the 527 exemption remains just as it was under the old 1974 FECA.

If John McCain thinks that 527s like SVT and MoveOn.org were/are illegally spending "soft money" then he is at odds with his precious McConnell v. FEC. Either that or he just likes to call what he doesn't like illegal. This isn't "straight-talk", Senator. This is, to be kind, "dissembling". 527s -- associations of interested like-minded individuals -- are perfectly legal. You haven't squashed all dissent yet and you just hate that, don't you! HA!

What's interesting to note, at this point, is that McCain's letter is arguing for the further expansion of campaign reform (notice the absence of the word "finance") to a letter-writer who'd prefer to repeal what's already been enacted. Whatever. It's a prefab form letter..

527 Groups supporting both presidential candidates raised and spent tens of millions of dollars in soft money on ads and partisan voter mobilization efforts to influence the presidential election.

THE HORROR!!! The wee folk are organizing against their overlords! [/sarcasm] Yes, Senator, some of us actually give a damn about who wins elections and want to mobilize and convince others to see the big picture and vote in their own interests, not yours. It's called "government of the People, by the People, for the People." Is "influence" a dirty word all of a sudden? Is, then, a fellow Arizonan's threat of withholding their vote for you in the next election an illegal "influence" on your re-election? How far are we going to take this nonsense? Huh?! ANSWER ME!!!

At the core of the financing for these 527 groups was a relatively small number of very wealthy individuals making very large soft money contributions. Four individuals alone gave a combined total of $78 million to these groups! The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has shamefully failed to do its job to require these obviously political groups to register as political committees, which would obligate them to comply with the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974.

Okay, let's get something straight here. When McCain says "soft money", he isn't talking, anymore, about the money that's given to political parties (as opposed to specific candidates). He's now talking about your money. He's talking about private individuals who're spending their own money to announce their own po-lit-ic-al op-in-i-ons. Are we clear on this? John McCain equates you spending your own money, as a private and sovereign citizen, to get your message out, with **gasp!** political corruption!

"These people are talking amongst themselves! And they're talking about US! And they have opinions! THIS MUST BE STOPPED!"

F@#$%k you, John McCain. (Pardon my Freedom.)

1974 campaign finance law and the failure of the FEC to properly regulate the activities of these groups. THE BCRA reforms continue to function, despite the presence of these 527 groups. It is significant that FEC registered hard money contributions to the 2004 presidential campaign has outnumbered the 527 political groups spending by a factor of seven at last count.


If you're tauting the figure ("a factor of seven") as evidence that 527s can't compete, financially, with the party's own "hard money" as a sign that 527s are less influential than the individual contributions of supporters then I got news for ya: A $2,000 individual contributer can't get his @$$ on the news. That's why we ban together into 527s. (Can't let the big guys hog all the ink.) Can I get a Hallelujah?!

Because the FEC had failed to properly enforce federal law and require the 527 groups to register as political committees, I have introduced legislation along with Senator Feingold that would require all 527s to register as political committees unless they raise and spend money solely in connection with non-Federal candidate elections.

Can't have us talkin' about ya behind yer back, now can we...?
It is unfortunate that Congress must take legislative action requiring the FEC to properly enforce the law, but we cannot allow the obstinate acts of non-elected commissioners to obstruct the law and to dilute the influence that average American's have in determining who will lead their country.

Er... did I read that right? Hmmmm... Sadly, yes.

In case anyone is still in the dark about this, let's recap.

Remember the last election? Remember those Swiftboat Vet guys? Remember those MoveOn.org ads? Remember all that precious yammering on and on by people from Dan Ra™er to Powerline? That's what John McCain wants to squelch. If you still think that that's not what he wants then think harder. He equates debate and advocacy with... bribery. If anyone might be in danger of actually making a difference then it's, obviously, nothing more than corrupt influence peddling! No? Yeuh!

What Senator McCain wants to do away with is corruption. I get that. Unfortunately, by his chosen method of doing so, he'll only end up -- if he has his way even more than he's already had -- doing away with the very Liberty and accountability that he claims to cherish; thus only exacerbating the problem that he seeks to solve.

By "taking the money out of politics" he would gladly take the discourse out of politics. No way, no how, Senator. Dispite your worst efforts we are still free to yammer on and on as long as we like. And, yes, we'll talk about you and, fair warning, there ain't sh@#$t you'll ever be able to do about it.

Again, thank you for contacting me regarding campaign finance reform.
Please feel free to contact me on this or any other matter of concern.

(Autopen signature) John
John McCain
United States Senator

No, I will not feel free. I am free. But, thanks for the invite... bitch.

Posted by Tuning Spork at April 30, 2005 08:02 PM

Great job.For some reason your trackback is not allowing me access so I am linking to you on my
McCain - Feingold post from Oct.'04
Thanks for doing a great job. I wanted to post about this, but I am limited by time. I only post once or twice weekly. Mine is an old post and the traffic is low to nil, but I want people to read what you have to say.
Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Ken at May 7, 2005 03:01 PM
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