The McCain-Feingold “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” is one of the things for which I will never forgive John McCain. Nor, for that matter, will I forgive President Bush for signing it into law, as anyone will know who watched/heard me growling obscenities at the TV while the President commented, during the freakin’ signing ceremony, on how he was pretty sure it was unconstitutional, but was going to sign it anyway because he was sure the Supreme Court would get his back (anyone remember how that turned out?).
I believed then, and still believe now, that total transparency would be far more effective in weeding out corrupt influences arising from questionable campaign contributions, combined with far more effective screening techniques for weeding out fake IDs used for multiple submissions and other contribution fraud.
Which brings me to my point. I saw something from Captain Ed today, the looks of which I liked a whole lot. The RNC is planning to use the filthy lucre in Barack Obama’s campaign vault as a hit point in an ad campaign calling on him to be far more transparent about his own campaign donors.
Obama first distinguished himself as a target of suspicion on this front when he went back on his word to subject himself to public campaign financing, allowing him to collect unlimited amounts of money and at the same time be really cagey about where the money was coming from. Last month alone, the Obama campaign raised a stench-ridden $150 million.
The RNC has responded by launching a new website allowing access to a database containing the first names, last names, and amount donated of all people donating $200 or less since John McCain officially became the Republican nominee (i.e. since the convention, after which his campaign switched to public money and the RNC began running issue ads to supplement his campaign effort). They are calling upon Obama to do the same with his donors up to $200.
Thing is, Obama is balking. The law does not require that he do so, of course, but given his pledge to be a different kind of politician, on top of the brazen breach of his public-financing promise, people are going to wonder what he’s hiding.
For their part, journalists are having trouble thinking of a good reason why Obama would be reluctant to release the names and donation amounts of his donors. It’s not enough information on them for other Democrats to use the database for their own fundraising purposes (which would rob Obama of a terrific power-brokering tool). Might it be that the database might include too many donors named “Doodad Pro” or “Jgtj Jfggjjfggj”…?
Captain Ed sums up their quandary:
There really is no good reason not to reveal their donors. If the RNC can do it with a website in the middle of a presidential campaign, then the Obama campaign certainly can as well. Do they want to admit to a certain amount of incompetence at basic data management that will undermine their tech-savvy patina, especially after shooting themselves in the foot for making fun of John McCain’s inability to use e-mail? I think not.
Hey, when all anti-First Amendment regulation regimes fail, transparency moves in to pick up the slack. At least it might turn lack of transparency in fundraising, at long last, into a campaign liability, which is as it should be.