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July 07, 2005

Unlikely Reformers

I generally try to shy away from large quotes, but this piece by Harold Meyerson on Republican efforts to pervert the McCain-Feingold Act to choke off sources of Democratic funding is too important not to publicize. More below the fold:

Ah, so you continued on. Excellent. Here's Harold Meyerson:

Accustomed though they were to Republican abuses of legislative practice, Democrats were nonetheless taken completely by surprise at the April 27 meeting of the Senate Rules Committee. With senators still settling into their seats, the “markup” session to revise the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform law had barely begun when Alaska Republican Ted Stevens, noting that he had to leave early, moved to report the bill to the Senate floor -- before the committee actually took up its language and considered amendments.
...
It wasn’t just the cart-before-the-horse aspect of the vote that was surreal. Consider, as well, the lineup of Republicans who voted at the hearing to “reform” campaign practices. The new crop included such longtime opponents of campaign-finance reform as Lott and, even more improbably, Republican Whip Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s foremost opponent of McCain-Feingold (officially the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act), who had challenged the measure’s constitutionality in court.

There’s a reason, it turns out, they’d suddenly gotten reform religion: This bill would reform out of existence the “527” groups that had run so many ads and energized so many voters in last year’s presidential campaign, giving Democrats something close to parity in spending for voter mobilization. As the session progressed, Lott and his fellow Republicans passed a series of amendments from Utah’s Robert Bennett that gave a whole new meaning to campaign-finance reform -- all intended to increase the resources that flow from businesses and big-money donors to Republicans. They raised the amount an individual donor can give to a political action committee (PAC). They increased the amount that PACs can give to national party committees. They eliminated restrictions on trade associations’ abilities to solicit contributions from corporations, and on corporations’ abilities to solicit contributions from employees. They raised from $101,000 to roughly $3 million the amount an individual can give to candidates and party committees in one campaign cycle. They removed all limits on the amount a leadership PAC (a PAC controlled by a legislative leader such as Bill Frist or Tom DeLay) can give to a national party committee. They indexed the PAC contribution limits to the cost of living. Arguably, the entire Republican worldview is encapsulated in the contrast between their opposition to indexing the minimum wage and their support for indexing PAC contributions.

So, to restate, Republicans revised the McCain-Feingold bill to kill 527's and accept more hard cash, and tried to push it out of committee before Democrats could even look at it. The most under-connected story in contemporary electoral politics is the Republican's wide-ranging and multi-front effort to shut down Democratic funding sources. A partial list would go something like:

1) Tort reform to take out trial attorneys;
2) Initiatives to force unions to receive written permission from every member before using their dues for political advocacy;
3) 50+1% law-making to freeze Democrats out of the legislative process and reduce their usefulness to industry;
4) The "K" Street project to track lobbyist donations and offer increased legislative concessions and leadership access to those who stop donating to Democrats;
5) Attempts to reform McCain-Feingold that ease restrictions on Republican funding sources and brutally crack down on Democratic methods.

This is serious stuff, and while each individual attempt is covered and subjected to appropriate outrage, I've seen nothing identifying the multiple methods as fronts in a single war. Republicans are legislating in the hopes of financially handicapping Democrats ten years hence. At the very least, we should be noticing.

July 7, 2005 in Republicans | Permalink

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Comments

Those others I've heard of (and I think Kevin Drum's done a few posts connecting these various issues) but your point #3 is a new one. Very good point!

Posted by: Brad Plumer | Jul 7, 2005 4:04:37 PM

We have to presume that the Democratic leadership, in both the Dean/Reform/Grassroots wing and the Beltway/DLC/Establishment wing, know where their money comes from and understand the gravity of the situation.

Who is putting the story out there?

Who is developing solutions?

My own suggestion is both dangerous and bold. The Democrats should loudly renounce corporate sponsorship. They should make how each party raises money the No. 1 issue and the very first paragraph of their 2006 version of a 'Contract With America.'

The fact that Gov. Arnold can still get away with calling Democrats the party of special interests, all while collecting record donations from various corporate interests, demonstrates that the general public does not perceive any difference between the parties with respect to how they raise money, and how they work for their financial supporters rather than the country, or the state, as a whole.

This is one of the issues that, if properly exploited, could be a major step in bring the Democratic Party back into power nationally.

Posted by: James E. Powell | Jul 7, 2005 5:01:23 PM

Off Topic:

I just want to wish the detainees at Guantanamo Bay strength and courage through hurricane Dennis, and if you get wet or scared during the storm, THAT IS ABUSE, and you should report it to your nearest Amnesty International official.

Be brave little soldiers.

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