Record Fund-raising Despite McCain-Feingold's Promise to 'Clean Up Politics'

The DC Examiner has a great editorial this morning reminding everyone of the dramatic failure that McCain-Feingold has been. Not only has it failed to remove the "corrupting" influence of money in elections, it's needlessly promoted censorship:

Well, so much for “getting rid of the corrupting influence of
money on politics” — the basic aim of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance
Reform Act of 2002, aka as McCain-Feingold. That’s Sen. Russ Feingold,
D-Wis., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive front-runner for
the 2008 GOP presidential nomination who raised “only” $12.5 million
during the first three months of 2007. The Arizona senator trailed far
behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who raised $21 million
and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who raised $15 million, $10
million of which came in March alone. Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary
Clinton, D-N.Y., raised $26 million, former North Carolina Sen. John
Edwards raised $14 million and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson raised
$6 million. Sen.Barack Obama, D-Ill., has not released his figures but
is estimated to have raised about $22 million. Collectively, more than
$125 million has been raised by the 2008 presidential candidates in
just three months, with more than nine months to go before the first
primary.

Think back to the days before McCain-Feingold
became law. The biggest target of the law’s backers was the estimated
$500 million in soft money contributed to political parties by
corporations, individuals, labor unions and others. Just last year,
Fred Wertheimer and Trevor Potter, two of the most ardent
McCain-Feingold supporters, charged that soft money “ultimately turned
into a $500 million national scandal and disgrace.” Now it looks like
the presidential primary contenders will equal or even surpass that
once-scandalous threshold long before the start of the general election
campaign. We know little or nothing about what was promised by the
candidates in return for this unprecedented flood of cash.

There
is a distinction to be made between “soft” and “hard” money in
politics, but the common denominator is the cash, the corrupting
influence that McCain-Feingold’s backers sought to eliminate. Ever
since Bill and Hillary Clinton put a “For Rent” sign on the Lincoln
bedroom in the White House and found creative new ways to channel
foreign money into domestic politics, gathering and collecting from
campaign donors has been raised — or lowered — to levels of
sophistication and efficiency that would have amazed Boss Tweed.
Despite McCain-Feingold, more money is flowing to candidates than ever
before in American politics.

It's also worth mentioning that the way McCain-Feingold was written has allowed for so-called 527 groups to funnel even more money into politics (technically indirectly from candidates) without even answering to federal disclosure requirements. This is yet another reason McCain-Feingold has been a failure.

The truth is that money is inexorably connected with free speech, especially when it comes to political free speech. Trying to "channel" or "remove" money's influence is always going to be ineffective or if successful, tyrannical.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013