Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Russ Feingold: Progressives United Against Voter Influence

Jerry Stratton, June 7, 2011

I don’t really plan on ranting about every piece of junk mail that comes through my mailbox, but this one from Senator Feingold reminds me of how campaign finance reform crashed and burned in the 2008 election. Feingold, of course, is one half of the team that helped bring us McCain-Feingold, an effort McCain is probably sorry he took part in. President Obama, who chose to forego public financing1 and go strictly with private financing—and that with serious issues of avoiding the law’s requirements, pulled in more than twice what McCain was able to get.2

Obama is now angry that the Supreme Court has ruled that voters banding together to help finance their favorite candidates is a free speech issue. Well, he probably knows that his opponent in 2012 isn’t going to be as naive as Senator McCain was. As McCain said in March 2010, “No Republican in his or her right mind is going to agree to public financing. I mean, that’s dead”3. So Obama knows his opponent isn’t going to be hamstrung like McCain was when McCain chose public financing.

Obama himself expects to raise over a billion dollars for his 2012 reelection campaign; given that he raised nearly three quarters of a billion dollars for the 2008 elections4 before he was president, it’s pretty likely he’s going to make it.

Even given the inflation under his watch, that is a lot of money. The only way the average voter can hope to have an influence in a billion-dollar campaign is by banding together with other voters. So it’s more than a bit hypocritical for Obama to complain that the Citizens United ruling “gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington—while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions” as Feingold quotes him saying across the top of this letter.

The “unregulated corporate campaign spending” that Feingold complains caused the 2010 conservative wave came from average Americans banding together into various tea party groups to pool their resources—both money and time.

Feingold’s “reforms” are all about protecting incumbents and reducing the effectiveness of tea-party-like groups of individual voters. He claims that his goal is to “bring transparency and accountability to our elections.” If he’s telling the truth, the place to start is with his own party’s 2008 presidential campaign.

The most awesome part of the letter is the postscript:

This is our opportunity to take a stand and fight back against the special-interest spending that is threatening our democracy. A contribution of any amount before June 30 makes you a Founding Member of Progressives United… please fill out the attached Action Form and return it with your most generous contribution today!

Yes, let’s stop that special-interest spending. Please, give money to my special interest!

In response to Mimsy Election Mailbag: Let’s see which politicians prefer the post office to the Internet, and what they say when they do.

  1. Obama was the first candidate since 1976, when the system was introduced, to forego public financing for the general presidential election.

  2. McCain’s total was 368 million, while Obama’s was 745 million.

  3. Which is fine with me. Government financing of candidates is one of the most anti-democratic programs we have.

  4. Some estimates even put his total over 750 billion; that may include both the primary and the general.

  1. <- Michelle Bachmann
  2. Proposed Republican agenda ->