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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform

Ryan Sager has a good article in the New York Post on some campaign finance reform efforts in Illinios:

ANYONE still clinging to the notion that cam paign-finance reformers are interested in 'clean government' solely for its own sake should take a look at Illinois — specifically a race for a state Supreme Court seat last year that turned into the most expensive judicial contest in U.S. history. The race was a money magnet — with more than $9 million spent by the time the dust cleared. Why? Because tort lawyers from all over the country go to Illinois' Madison County to file lawsuits against deep-pocketed corporations. If Democrat Gordon Maag won the Supreme Court race, the trial-lawyer gravy train would probably keep on rollin'. If Republican Lloyd Karmeier won (he did), he was expected to start hitting the breaks (he has). Money rolled in from pro- and anti-tort-reform forces around the country. And so one group appointed itself traffic cop: the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the state's resident good-government watchdog. The 'nonpartisan' group spearheaded a Tone and Conduct Committee — organized under the aegis of the state Bar Association — aimed at keeping advertising by outside interests to a minimum. The media bought this charade hook, line and sinker, referring to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform as 'nonpartisan' and the Tone and Conduct Committee as 'independent.' In fact, the group has extensive ties to the trial-lawyer lobby. That fact was only brought to light this year, in a report from the business-funded, pro-tort-reform Illinois Civil Justice League. How does the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform answer that evidence? 'Our work speaks for itself,' says Cindi Canary, the group's executive director. (She also says ICPR reaches out to Republicans, Democrats, business and labor.) But out of three senior staffers listed on the group's Web site, two have extensive ties to trial lawyers. The assistant director, David Morrison, used to work for the Coalition for Consumer Rights, a typical 'consumer' group opposed to tort reform. The project manager of ICPR's Judicial Campaign, Mary Schaafsma, has been affiliated for almost two decades with a group, Illinois Citizen Action, that is funded by trial lawyers and also aggressively opposes tort reform.
I am strongly opposed to campaign finance limitations even when the groups promoting such things are above board and don't have an agenda they are trying to drive through. Campaign Finance Reform boils down to deciding who can speak and which issues can be heard. It is nothing less than an assault on free speech and an attempt to control the debate by silening one's opponants.


Blogger Andrew Watkins said...

I felt a lot different about this a few years ago, when I was but a young lad, ill-informed and enticed by the good intentions of John McCain and the ilk.

Now I'm more inclined to agree with you, and more than that, view even purely well-intentioned reform (if such a thing is possible) as an almost contemptable form of utopianism. Campaign finance reform ignores the central tenet of politics, that power and influence will attract others with influence, and money, favors, etc, will change hands accordingly. I'm not being fatalist about corruption, but I think it's wasted effort, and as we've seen, produces unintended consequences, when we focus on campaign finances.

4/26/2005 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I am all for disclosure laws. Contributions to any political party or organization that engages in political advertising should be fully disclosed, preferably into an easily searchable database.

Then reporters and bloggers can provide the necessary checks and balances.

The correct solution to any form of speech you don't approve of is more speech, not censorship.

4/26/2005 09:13:00 AM  

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