A System Worthy of Contempt

June 23rd, 2008

I had to stop listening to the podcast for Meet the Press just now. Yes, some time ago, Barack Obama said that he would “aggressively pursue” talks with McCain to work out a system that was free of big money; the worst you could say is that he didn’t pursue it as aggressively as he suggested. That’s the worst you can honestly say about what he did. But his campaign financing is cleaner than McCain’s. Obama’s campaign is not riddled with lobbyists like McCain’s is. Obama has shut down federal lobbyists, PACs, and 527’s not only for his campaign but for his party as well, in a way that John McCain refuses to do. While he may have violated the letter of his pledge, he has more than upheld its spirit, and he has done nothing even remotely illegal–not even remotely reminiscent of corrupt.

On the other hand, as a matter of legal fact, John McCain is in direct violation of campaign finance law, on two counts. He took out a loan with public financing as collateral and then unilaterally pulled out of the system–both illegal acts. He. Broke. The. LAW. And with every dollar he spends, he continues to break the law.

And yet these yapping heads continue to rave on about how Obama is disgracing himself, and are not uttering a word about McCain’s continuing violation of the law. Instead they whine about how Obama is breaking an otherwise great system. A system that allows for millions in corporate, lobbyist, and special interest money to be spent on behalf of a candidate who is then beholden to them, spent in a way that allows them to do it anonymously and without accountability.

You want corruption? How’s this: The FEC, which is supposed to police campaign finance, has been hobbled because Bush wanted to nominate to the commission an absurdly partisan member, and the Republican Party has filibustered any other nominations until this partisan spoiler was approved; as a result, the FEC, without enough members to act, has been powerless to do anything.

Regardless of this, David Mason, the Republican chairman of the FEC, spoke out earlier this year, challenging McCain about both of his illegal acts–in essence announcing that McCain may not unilaterally withdraw from public financing and that his using public financing as collateral must be reviewed by the FEC. Now, that actually speaks well of the public financing system–that a Republican FEC chair takes his own party’s candidate to task.

However, Mason will never get that chance: Bush has fired him.

Now tell me about how public financing is not corrupt.

Obama is the clean one here. McCain is not only corrupt, he is literally and demonstrably criminal. That is not a partisan rant, not a legal theory–it is fact. So naturally, Obama is eviscerated in the media on campaign financing, while McCain is lauded.

People, I make a lot of satirical references to the “Liberal Media™” in this blog, but I mean this for real: the media is so biased in favor of McCain this election season that it is not even close to being funny. That this can happen–again–and not make a public stir is only evidence of how conventional wisdom is still dependent upon what the media is willing to accept. If the media doesn’t pick up on a story, it dies, and no amount of blogging can give it power.

In the meantime, McCain is pushing for further media consolidation, allowing fewer and fewer people to own more and more of the media–single ownership of television, radio, and newspapers in multiple markets.

Gee, I wonder why.

  1. Tim Kane
    June 23rd, 2008 at 14:22 | #1

    I’m sorry Luis, but I can’t be that generous. Over the last 72 or so hours, Obama came out in support of a blue dog house democrat from Georgia that is for continueing the war for ever, tax cuts, the whole-lieberman-nine-yards – as if Obama hadn’t learn already from the original article.

    Then he comes out with his backing the FISA agreement.

    Then he bails on public financing thing. The key issue is not so much where he stands vis-a-vis McCain on the issue, its just that this means the idea of public financing of campaigns is now, likely, a dead issue, and probably for the remainder of our lives. All this after he was a major advocate of it.

    So if you were for Obama based upon where he stood on the issues, then he just defecated on you. And because he was such a strong proponent for ending the war, for opposing immunity on the FISA bill, for public financing, he now looks like your garden variety two-faced politician, with an above average turn of phrase.

    Personally, I am shocked and truly devastated by this. For me he’s gone from “change we can believe in” to “the same I can’t believe in.”

    I feel worse about those last 72 hours then when Edwards bowed out of the race. I don’t know how I’ll recover or if I’ll recover my enthusiasm for him anymore. And just as his poll numbers were pulling away from McCain too. I think he’s made a mistake – that he didn’t need to make.

    If he starts looking like a regular politician, then a lot of people are going to drift away from him. It won’t keep him from getting elected, but it might keep him from getting the numbers we need for passing health insurance reform.

    Yeah, I’m sure I’ll vote for him. And maybe I’ll change my tune some – but as for now, I really feel devastated by all this. I don’t trust him, or his words, at all now. To me, he’s just another politician. He’s a dem, so I’ll vote for him, but damn, that really, really really hurts.

  2. Luis
    June 23rd, 2008 at 15:18 | #2


    I don’t feel the same way, though I am more wary now than I was last week.

    On the blue-dog Democrat: Barrow endorsed Obama very early on in the race, at a time when such support was crucial to Obama; Obama’s support back is likely the result of that transaction. While it may be grating, there are some trade-offs in politics. I cannot explain Obama’s helping Lieberman previously against Lamont, but at least Obama showed more loyalty to those who helped him than Lieberman showed to Obama, and that’s not wholly a bad thing.

    On the FISA bill: I am disappointed, but then again, this is not Obama acting alone–a lot of Dems are going along with this, and the word is that there is something going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. As I recall, the bill grants immunity from lawsuits, but not from criminal prosecution; I was never excited about FISA, seeing it as a criminal matter primarily. Having the added threat of lawsuits would have been good, and I cannot say why Obama is doing this–only that the fact he’s doing it to me means that he has an excellent reason to, knowing full well how his netroots–the people he depends on–would react to it. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until we find out more about what the hell is going on.

    As for campaign finance, I simply cannot agree with you on this. I have always felt that such finance laws were nothing much more than a false front, a fig leaf that politicians could hold up to say, “hey look, I’m clean!” while still taking money from lobbyists, corporations, political groups and special interest groups–same as always. And that’s exactly what McCain is doing right now.

    As for campaign finance being dead, it was little more than a propped-up corpse to begin with. What Obama has done is to replace it with something less official but far more honest: small-donation, private funding. Say no to lobbyists, say no to PACs, say no to 527s, and get the campaign and the party funded primarily–hopefully in the future, solely–by citizen-fed, small-denomination donations.

    The system can be worked and regularly is. As I pointed out, under the current system, one can still get major backing for tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars from business & special interests, outside the public finance system, completely legal–just as legal as bribes have become in D.C.

    I see no reason to cry over the demise of a system that lied to the people, making them think there was reform when things were just as dirty as ever.

    Seriously, how can you defend the system? How does it truly protect us? How good a job has it done with Bush, and how well has it done with McCain? McCain is not just a one-off; this guy is “Mr. Campaign Finance Reform” himself, in the flesh! And if he can be drowning in lobbyists, taking on the positions of all his corporate and political sponsors, even violating campaign finance laws outright and getting away with it scot-free, while maintaining the public image of a clean-dealing straight-shooter….

    …then kindly explain to me how the public campaign finance system we have now is working, even in the slightest bit?

    What Obama offers is better: you take money from small donors and shun the others, and people know you’re clean. If he can win by that model, it will be one for others to follow.

    What pains me is that the pols and the media are doing such a great job of convincing people otherwise. I can only guess that you didn’t know about the Barrow endorsement, and then the FISA thing got you down so that you believed the worst when this announcement came out.

    Please tell me I have persuaded you to at least some degree.

  3. Tim Kane
    June 25th, 2008 at 11:27 | #3

    In regard to the blue dog from Georgia, your information helped me somewhat there. I actually don’t mind that, in the sense that Obama kept fidelity to a prior commitment.

    In regard to public campaign financing, I was just coming around to accepting it as a possible way forward that took some of the money out of politics (I believe there should be campaign spending caps assigned to political offices – that would include 527s. I believe that most Politicians hate whoring themselves out for money, and so, once caps were in place, they would actually shrink over time – the incumbent having natural advantage of incumbency and name recognition would allow for this – as well as spending caps on contributions by individuals and a baning of corporations from the political process. Spending caps work really well in the NFL). I hoped that maybe publicly financed campaigns would get us to a system of caps. (which, ultimately would require a constitutional amendment acknowledging both freedom of speech, and equality of speech ie. fairness versus freedom balancing)

    Its not so much my position on it, as I see myself being rather poorly informed of it, as it was a position of Obama’s. I figure he and other advocates of it, new its relative merits better than I did, and were bringing me around to it. So he was selling me, and I was buying, until all of a sudden he abandoned the selling process. It’s not so much the product that bothers me as the process and the change on a dime. Obama was a big advocate of this, until suddenly he’s not. And given McCains trashing of the system, Obama’s abandonment of it means that, for all practical purposes, it’s gone for the foreseeable future, ie. my life time.

    Also, his backing of the FISA bill is another turnabout.

    So, you got me turned around on the Georgia Blue Dog, thing. I can admit that the campaign finance thing is in flux because of the impact of the internet. I won’t be philosophical here – I am for anything that undermines plutocracy and concentrated power and wealth. The current system looks alot like this and needs to be fixed:

    And the FISA thing is a total bust for me with Obama. Right now I see him as just another politician who wants to get himself elected. I don’t know if he’s another Franklin Roosevelt or Bill Clinton. Right now, he’s the latter in my book. Right now we need the former. I am not sure if people realize where we are at. But society like a speeding car, you have to calibrate where you are at by looking ahead at where you are going and this society is 4 to 8 years away, no more, from collapsing into looking like Mexico. The only difference between Mexico and the U.S is we had Roosevelt and the New Deal and they did not.

    The fact is, Obama, to me, is just another politician trying to get elected. Roosevelt had the common man’s back. (That’s why soldiers willingly went off to fight WWII. They would not had gone if the Repubicans had controlled society for the entire 1930s.) I won’t allow myself to be fooled by Obama again. He doesn’t have my back until he does, repeatedly.

    Right now, if Obama gets elected, I am extremely confident that he won’t get us universal health care, and he’ll drag his feet at getting us out of Iraq. All rhetoric aside, once elected, he’ll do very little – arguing, as he does now, that we have to as cautious getting out as we were reckless getting in.

    Yes he’s got my vote, but he’s also lost my enthusiasm. Once again, I am contemplating my disappointment that Edwards was run out of the election by the media’s neglect. Edwards had my back.

    These days, the very fact that the Media neglected Edwards, makes him look like the true candidate for change. Obama, right now, looks like he made a deal with the devil.

    I’ll vote for him. I will probably defend him. But I won’t delude myself. The mans a politician, with an above average turn of phrase. That’s great. But I’m not sure how that improves things. Now I have to wait and see where he gets us.

  4. Tim Kane
    June 25th, 2008 at 19:07 | #4

    I left out this link above. It’s just a Carlin routine that someone sent to me. But it’s largely how I feel about things. Anyway I left it out. It belonged as shown (hopefully) below.

    The current system looks a lot like this and needs to be fixed:


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