Saturday, June 21, 2008

Obama and campaign finance

(Updated below.)

Good for him that he refused to be suckered into the public-financing pact with McCain. Truth is, he never should have made that promise to begin with.

Anyone who reads this blog much knows I'm a big believer in voter-owned elections. Problem is, with the current reading of campaign finance regs--and without a functioning FEC to enforce the rules--voters are a long way from owning the 2008 campaign, regardless of who accepts public financing.

What campaign finance reform was intended to bring about was transparency in campaign funding and an end to campaigns financed by corporate donors and a handful of big-check donors that inevitably froze the rest of us out and made legislative conflicts of interest inevitable.

One look at the campaign that McCain is running shows that, despite his brazen self-promotion as a reformer, McCain is hip-deep in everything that genuine reformers want to fix: His top campaign staff is thick with corporate lobbyists. "Independent" attack groups like Freedom's Watch (whose list of officers and major donors is like a tour through Bush's Rolodex, making it all the more likely that it will once again face charges of illegally coordinating activities with the RNC) are prepared to do McCain's campaign dirty work, like the swift boaters of 2004, allowing McCain to pretend his hands are clean. He's almost certainly in violation of the campaign finance laws by accepting public money to collateralize a loan, then attempting to opt out of the public-funding program. And McCain is chasing the big, bundling donors every bit as hard as Bush did in 2000 and 2004.

Meanwhile, Obama has made it clear that "527" independent attack groups won't be welcome in the Obama White House. He's instructed to do its work through its transparent PAC rather than its "527." And to an astonishing degree, his campaign has been fueled by many small donors rather than a few large ones (donors who are individually a long way from hitting their donation limit). In short, although the cost of this campaign will almost certainly break records and I'm not happy about that, Obama, without accepting public financing money, has nevertheless accomplished much of what campaign finance reform was intended to do.

So good for him, on that score.

Now let's hope he doesn't let us down by attempting to amend the FISA bill, to remove telecom immunity, rather than simply leading the Democrats to kill it dead.

Update: I'm only now making it through my daily blog reading list, so I just discovered that Atrios, wisely, agrees with me.)

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