The Road to Hell ( and “campaign finance reform”) are paved with…

The Road to Hell, they say is paved with Good Intentions. So is the path to “Campaign Finance Reform” – and both paths end up in the same place.
In fact the term “Campaign Finance Reform” has no intrinsic meaning after decades of use, abuse and misuse by political pundits, the courts, politicians and self-anointed Good People who’ve been part of the Good Intentions Road Paving Crew.
Why do I say this? Simply ask any of the aforementioned folks what that phrase means and you’ll see – you will get about a dozen, or more different responses. Most of which will conflict with each other. None of which mean anything, except a Rube Goldberg like device of laws which don’t work, and make our political system even more difficult to navigate or participate in.
I’ve had the opportunity (some might argue misfortune) of working in political campaigns for the past ten years. I’ve worked on everything from multi-million dollar US Senate and Governor’s races around the country, to smaller state and US House races, and even down to pint-sized campaigns for State House and City Council.
In every single one of these I’ve had to navigate laws that make no sense, certainly don’t “reform” politics, and make things more and more difficult for first-time politicos – and easier for well funded incumbents.
The most recent incarnation of “Campaign Finance Reform” is the McCain Feingold bill, possibly one of the most inept pieces of legislations to come out of Congress. (and to continue expressing my displeasure with the misuse of these irritating buzzwords I’m going to put it and other words devoid of meaning in quotes to make this easier to understand..)
To read of just one of many unintended consequences (and there are a LOT) of this law, check out this article from the San Francisco Chronicle’s opinion section which shows just one of the law’s most ridiculous unintended outcomes. I challenge either Sens. McCain or Feingold to explain this little bizarre Hell Road Paving away.
The problem with every attempt to “reform” the “system” is that no one can really agree on what the “problem” needing “reform” is. Ask any partisan what the problem is and what they’ll end up telling you is that “reform” usually means find a way to Screw The Other Side. It’s not about creating a system that preserves Democracy it’s all about getting the other guys so your guys can stay in power.
Examples: Liberals are offended that very rich people don’t give to their campaigns – so they try to pass laws to keep them out of the system. Conservatives are aghast that scores of like-minded liberals might get together to work for some issue they’re against so they oppose THEM out of the system.
Fringe elements are so pissed that no one reads their macramé-woven brochures at the co-op they want to find some way to obligate the state to subsidize their way to the ballot box.
And so on and so on. When the laws get proposed, each side winds up its own home-grown shouting machine. Conservatives have talk radio, Liberals get the Internet, unions and groups, and the fringers, well they have a sit in or something. Posturing and foolishness, along with a press that doesn’t cover issues in any depth (preferring instead to rehash the template in their word processor condemning all politics as evil!) end up with another rack of bad laws (oops I mean “reform”)
All we end up with as citizens are more screwball laws that end up being used not to clean up politics but instead for devious hacks (i.e. me) to use to dig up charges on The Other Guy (or Gal).
The press will cover “scandal” when the charges are leveled, but since almost any Public Disclosure Agency is overworked and overwhelmed they won’t get to investigating the charges for months, even YEARS later.
Meanwhile the campaigns get their “hit” in the papers, the press congratulates itself for being “tough” and we later find out years later the charges were BOGUS.
Head spinning now? Yes, mine too. Now do you see why I’m tired of working in campaign fundraising? You’re just reading about it – I’ve had to live it and it ain’t no fun.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

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