Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Popular ideas that go nowhere

By Bill Kraus

This list of ideas does not include anything that has to do with limiting the flow of money into political campaigns or the unpopular things (endless campaigns, 30 second messages, robo calls, etc) that are purchased with that money. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that money is a form of speech and is protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution no matter how unpopular the speech may be.

Information about the sources of free speech/money is, surprisingly, almost encouraged by the same Supreme Court. Don’t ask me to explain this mild anomaly. I can’t and they don’t.

This kind of disclosure is widely applauded. It is even legislated in the case of donations to candidates themselves. Proposals to go beyond that, however, founder. The only logical explanation for this (and, be forewarned, the regulation of campaign spending is not an area where logic prevails or even exists) is that the organizations that are collecting this outside money have convinced the people who have the power to expose the contributors of this outside money that their contributors do not want anyone to know who they are, and will, what’s more, stop contributing if exposure is mandated. These incumbents have done the math and concluded that it is more important to have this money in the game even though they have no guarantee that it will be spent disproportionately on their behalf. I think their math is questionable. They don’t. They have the power to quash full disclosure legislation. I don’t.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The latest degeneration

By Bill Kraus

Despite widespread agreement on the deleterious effects of money in politics, we have a long history of not doing much about all the things we complain about.

The mostly shameful Republican primary is behind us.

Unfortunately it has left a trail of personalization of political campaigns that shows no signs of going away.

The high-tempo partisans have always advocated smash mouth campaigns. When their favorites lose, they attribute the loss to what in a normal world would be regarded as reasonableness.

The reigning wisdom is attack, attack, attack.

This tells us something about those who are shaping campaigns these days and what those shapers think of the discernment of those whose votes they seek.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Triumvirate of campaign deform

By Bill Kraus

Despite widespread agreement on the deleterious effects of money in politics, we have a long history of not doing much about all the things we complain about.

Almost all attempts, from the worthy to the fantasized, have been thwarted by three formidable forces:

1.) Recalcitrant Republicans who think their minority position means that only disproportionatley large amounts of money will achieve electoral success. To put it bluntly an even playing field is not likely to be on their wish list.

2.) Duplicitous Democrats who lament their self- perceived inability to raise as much money as their Republican opponents and support regulation of campaign spending until they achieve a working majority despite this handicap. Their appetite for reform depends entirely on whether or not they have that majority.

3.) The U.S. Supreme Court whose rulings for three centuries have firmly rejected regulation of and limits on political spending.

I know, I know, Republicans once supported the disclosure of political contributors and the Supreme Court even encouraged legislation that would do this, and many on the left continue to believe in and invent ways to bring small contributors with their minimal money into play in a big way. But the fact is that we are about to have a billion dollar presidential campaign.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What all that money buys

By Bill Kraus

In light of the recent and predicted excessive spending on politics it is easy to focus on and complain about how much is being spent and on what. There are some undesirable side effects of this extravagance, though, that don’t get sufficient attention.

Some are obvious.

This embarrassment of political riches suborns:

Is there anyone who doesn’t think multi-digit donations are buying something? Access for sure. Ego food as well. It is surprising how many with money think that power is more important and will lavish their wealth on anyone who will put them into proximity to power. The money is not necessarily buying something untoward, but it could be, and it is, for sure, buying something.

Paranoia. There is a widespread belief by candidates and incumbents that money is the direct, and maybe the only route to power. This belief is both fostered and exploited by the economic beneficiaries of the unseemly spending on political advertising: the professional campaigners who are being paid to spend the money and the media, mostly television stations, that fill the airwaves with the commercials the professionals have produced.