Fineman: Private Campaign Financing More 'Sordid' Than Spending Money at Risque Nightclubs
In Howard Fineman's mind, the real "sordid" story behind the now infamous RNC/Voyeur Club kerfuffle is not the inappropriateness of the venue or the expensing of the outing on the donors' dime, but the whole system of raising money from large-dollar private donors in the first place.
The Newsweek writer complained in the April 19 print edition:
Talk about bondage. It feels like we are in thrall to cash and the pursuit of it as never before. I know senators in both parties who spend every spare minute in the soul-shrinking exercise of dialing for dollars. Donors are just as trapped. Once they're on a list, they're on every list.
Fineman went on to add a new boilerplate complaint from the Left as well as to mourn the demise of the media's favorite Republican "campaign finance reformer":
Is there any way out of this morass of money? Apparently not; in fact, we are wading in deeper now that the Supreme Court has said corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts from their treasuries. The White House and Hill Democrats have put together a reform plan, the core of which would be instant disclosure of who is really paying for the "independent" ads that will flood the airwaves this fall. But it's not at the top of the to-do list and probably wouldn't pass anyway—especially now that ex-maverick John McCain has dropped out of the reform movement for election season.
For Fineman, the real problem is the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech and association which undergird the Court's ruling about corporate conributions.
Nowhere in his article did Fineman consider the conservative/libertarian argument that a byzantine tax code and heavy government involvement in business regulation is to blame for creating a corporate culture heavily invested in lobbying, campaign finance, and gaming the regulatory regime.
Indeed, conservatives such as Tim Carney -- author of "The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money" -- argue that there are plenty of companies that work to game the regulatory system by lobbying for legislation or regulations that help their bottom line while disadvantaging competitors or throwing up hurdles for new competitors to enter the marketplace.
Simply put, the problem is not the free market but how fettered the market has become because large private interests can game the regulatory regime in their favor and to the disadvantage of smaller entities.
Nope. To Fineman, the lesson is simply that private campaign contributions -- or at least those of wealthier individuals or companies -- is in and of itself a problem that must be addressed by more, bigger government.