Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Dash For Cash

He was wrong about Sarah Palin (except he noticed right away how attractive she is); wrong enough, that it alone should have disqualified his ticket from serious electoral consideration.

He wasn't wrong, however, about campaign finance reform.     In January, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) asserted "As you know, I think the outside super PACs and others is so disgraceful that I'm ashamed of the United States Supreme Court in their decision on United.....   I predict to you there will be a major scandal associated with the Supreme Court decision on Citizens versus United. There is too much money washing around."         A few days later, appearing on Meet The Press, he labeled the ruling an "outrage" and blasted the Supreme Court's "naivete."      

Responding to the specter (not Arlen) of a GOP general election campaign, the Obama campaign, as it revealed in an e-mail from Jim Messina (not this Jim Messina) to the pro-Obama Talking Points Memo

has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC. We will do so only in the knowledge and with the expectation that all of its donations will be fully disclosed as required by law to the Federal Election Commission.

What this change means practically: Senior campaign officials as well as some White House and Cabinet officials will attend and speak at Priorities USA fundraising events. While campaign officials may be appearing at events to amplify our message, these folks won't be soliciting contributions for Priorities USA. I should also note that the President, Vice President, and First Lady will not be a part of this effort; their political activity will remain focused on the President's campaign.

The decision by the Obama campaign to accept SuperPac funding is a nearly unavoidable response to the huge amount of dough being raised by Newt Gingrich and (especially) Mitt Romney in their battle for the GOP nomination, and Repub determination to raise far more than that in the general election campaign.      

Fighting with one hand tied behind the back is self-defeating.     While the campaign's decision is not sufficient to avoid defeat, it is necessary.         Notwithstanding the poor impression the American electorate has of Mitt Romney and the possibility of an improving economy, relying on small donations- as did Senator Obama in 2008- would spell defeat for President Obama in 2012.

It didn't have to be thus.     The first blow against sane campaign financing was struck by Barack Obama himself when in the last cycle, he turned down federal matching funds, instead basing his funding on small donations.        Democrats found the proliferation of small donations to be altruistic and exciting while Republicans, generally hostile to public financing because it would reduce the corporate stranglehold on American government, were tongue-tied..      But it forced McCain-Palin to forego federal financing and the race was on.

The major blow against sensible campaign financing- and against American democracy itself- came by way of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission which, understandably and justifiably, the co-author of McCain-Feingold rails against.           Soon after that landmark ruling, a federal appeals court in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Elections Commission, "as guided by Citizens United" ruled that corporations, unions, associations, and individuals can raise an unlimited amount of money and spend it to advocate for or against political candidates.     

That gave birth to SuperPacs,  which, as Messina suggests, must report the source of its donations to the FEC.      Messina's wording, however, is ambiguous; he states "as required by law" and the law includes a loophole allowing donors not to be identified.

No one is surprised that vulture capitalist Mitt Romney, who infamously declared "corporations are people, my friend" has applauded the decision in Citizens United.         Nor should we surprised that, in his zeal to pander to the far right which now dominates his party, Romney on Tuesday argued that the Susan G. Komen Foundation should have stuck to its decision to end to Planned Parenthood the funding it had provided for maintenance of women's health because "we're subsidizing an institution that is providing abortion."      He rationalized "I am a pro-life individual.     I was a pro-life governor, served as a pro-life governor.    I'm a pro-life candidate.    I simply do not want to participate in anything that takes away the life of an unborn child."

It's ironic that in a statement opposing measures which protect women's health and life, Romney contends he is "pro-life," and is one more reminder of the stakes in the 2012 presidential election.     We wish that Romney means little of what he has said as a candidate and, if elected president, would not remember what he advocated.      But the Republican nominee publicly supports Citizens United, would express (if actually asked) unequivocal opposition to public financing, and is determined to gobble up as much cash (more likely checks, and we accept major credit cards) as possible.    So there is only one road for the Obama campaign to take, and its GPS is fully operative.


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