There's one issue where I don't go along with the usual liberal thought. Actually, there are probably more, but there's just one I want to focus on now. I'm not very worried about the amount of money in politics, and I am totally against public financing of political campaigns. For one thing, the government already spends more than it takes in, so it surely doesn't need to waste one dime on some clown who wants to be elected to Congress or the White House. For another, if you think that public financing campaigns will get money out of politics, I'd like to sell you a timeshare in Iraq. The two groups of people who think that taking money under the table is a birthright are college athletes and politicians.
We first became concerned about money in politics when the man Mike Royko labeled "Our National Wart," Richard Nixon, was President. He was caught on one of the tapes saying it would be easy to raise a million dollars to keep the Watergate burglars quiet. Also, to be honest, Democrats have always been for public financing of campaigns because traditionally, Republicans have had more access to money than they have.
The result of all of those campaign finance laws passed in the wake of Watergate is that members of Congress, especially those in the House of Representatives, have to spend a large part of every day on the phone begging for money. They don't have time to do the jobs we elected them to as well as they should. Instead of studying the bills they have to vote on, they depend on lobbyists to explain them to them. Raising money becomes more important than the job because, as I've written many times before, the most important thing to an office holder is getting re-elected.
So when it comes to donating money to a candidate, I agree with the Citizens United decision that allows people to spend as much as they want. What I don't like about the decision is that it has led to Super PACs that allow people to contribute money anonymously. If someone donates to a candidate or a PAC, he or she should be publicly identified. Also, the media should do a better job of letting us know who is contributing to each candidate. Whatever you may think about the Koch brothers, at least they are open about what candidates and issues they support. That's the way it should be for all of us.
By law, these Super PACs aren't supposed to coordinate with the candidate they support, but that law has loopholes you could drive a semi through. Basically, these Super PACs do a candidate's dirty work by producing attack ads against his opponent that get votes, but allow him to deny any knowledge of them. The Willie Horton ads that helped George H.W. Bush win in 1988 are an example of this. Those ads, by the way, were the work of Roger Ailes, who today is the President of Fox News.
We should do away with these Super PACs and let people contribute whatever they want to the candidate of their choice. But let's do it out in the open. Candidates should have to report weekly on how much money they have raised, and from whom they've gotten it. Also, if a candidate wants to use attack ads, his campaign should be responsible for them, and the candidate should own them. If they want to fight dirty, that's fine as long as their hands get dirty, not someone else's.
As I wrote above, there will always be politicians willing to take a bribe. No matter what laws we pass, that's the way things are. What we can do is shine a light on how much money they raise, and where it comes from. And we can hold them accountable for the tactics used to get them elected.