NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 3, 2004

Even before the polls closed yesterday, one big loser was already clear: the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" that was supposed to cleanse our politics of "big money," says the Wall Street Journal.

Preliminary reports say a record $3.9 billion was spent on this year's presidential and congressional campaigns, 30 percent more than four years ago. Instead of severing the supposedly corrupting links between big money and politics, the reform's main effect has been merely to channel the cash through different political hands, and with less accountability.

In effect, McCain-Feingold made the 2004 election a showcase for the mega-rich, says the Journal:

  • Six of the top 10 donors to 527s -- including George Soros ($23.7 million), Peter Lewis ($23.1 million) and Stephen Bing ($14 million) -- are billionaires.
  • They've showered their money on such liberal groups as America Coming Together, and the Media Fund.
  • GOP 527 donors Bob Perry ($6.6 million) and T. Boone Pickens ($5 million) may not have given as much, but their impact has also been significant.

Meanwhile, small donors have had their speech restricted by the limits on advertising imposed on traditional lobbying groups 60 days before an election. Joining with other small donors in one larger cause (the Sierra Club or NRA) is sometimes the only way, other than voting, that the non-rich can influence politics.

The reformers' solution is to ban 527s, as if the rich and the politicians won't find some other way to influence elections. But isn't influencing elections the point of democratic participation?

The better solution is to dismantle the entire Rube Goldberg campaign-finance legal structure. Let political parties and candidates collect whatever donations they can from whomever they choose, so long as the sources are immediately disclosed on the Internet, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "The Billionaire's Boon," Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB109944292878163076,00.html


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