Today’s Roll Call editorial on campaign finance problems dodged and weaved where it should have illuminated. It also portends that we may soon be dealing with a dangerous new threat from a stealth campaign, only a few years after passage of the Bi-Partisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (BCRA), to once again raise contribution limits.
While we agree that electioneering activity should be regulated, we are not at all interested in getting there at the cost of an increase in contribution limits for money given directly to candidates. Both 527s and the behemoth 501cs that can easily comply can and should be regulated as PACs. That has little to do with contribution limits, despite Roll Call’s straining to make it so.
Given the unprecedented flow of both small and large money into campaign coffers this year, totaling nearly $500 million thus far, the audacity of asking for yet more bling is rather breathtaking. The Roll Call piece suggests that some may be floating the idea of trading more regulation of PAC-like electioneering activity for an increase in limits. That is a terrible idea.
The solution to the problem of special interest money in politics is not to have more special interest money. The real answer here is a robust system of public funding of elections. Public funding enables viable candidates to stand on their own two feet and mount a real campaign that is not dependent on special interest monies. No one step could be more helpful to weaning American elections off their addiction to private cash.
The reform community should make sure to pop this trial balloon with a loud bang. Our choice is not between the rock of electioneering by independent groups and the hard place of more power to the PACs. Instead, we need a third way, and voluntary public funding is that way.