Whatever happened to campaign finance reform?

The year 2000 seems ages ago. On the political landscape, pretty much everything that happened prior to 9/11 seems like a different lifetime. Amazingly, 14 years have passed since 9/11. How innocent we all seemed before that day. If you recall, one of the major issues of the 2000 election campaign was campaign finance reform. I don’t recall campaign finance reform ever being an important issue among rank-and-file voters, but was rather ginned up by the political class as a manufactured crisis. Back then, advocates of campaign finance reform were lamenting how money was corrupting the election process, and CFR was needed in order to rid politics of the corrupting influence of money. It was always a farce, though. Money is and long has been the mother’s milk of politics. You can’t have elections without money — and lots of it.

CFR manifested itself in what we know as the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002. In a nutshell, McCain-Feingold limited the amount of “soft money” in political campaigns, and also placed certain limits on issue advocacy ads (later overturned).

So McCain-Feingold succeeded in getting the money out of politics, right? Not hardly.

An article published by Time a year ago notes The Incredible Rise in Campaign Spending that began, ironically, after 2002 — the year McCain-Feingold became law.

This is typical of the way the ruling class, the political establishment, operates in our system. Their first instinct, once elected, is self-preservation. So they see things in the political process they don’t like, things that make it harder for them stay elected, and so they manufacture a crisis, promise that if they are elected/re-elected, they’ll sure fix the crisis with legislation, they pass a bill which really has nothing to do with the crisis, and then they pronounce the problem solved, pat each other on the back, and jump to the next manufactured crisis.

So if campaign finance reform had to happen back in 2000 in order the rid politics of all the dirty money, what about now, in 2015, with more money than ever being spent on political campaigns? Why have we not heard a peep from our elected leaders since McCain-Feingold about politics and money. Given the rapid acceleration in campaign spending, why is there no more hand-wringing? Because the political establishment “fixed” the crisis…which never existed in the first place.


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