February 4, 2002
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH MONEY IN POLITICS?
"Campaign finance reform" is a hot issue on Capitol Hill again in the wake of the Enron collapse. One very prominent Senator, who has championed the reform cause from the beginning, embarrassingly received thousands for his own campaign from the failed company. Oblivious to his hypocrisy, he recently appeared on national television lamenting that "Enron has tainted all of us. This shows why we need campaign finance reform."
If the Senator and so many others in Congress believe so strongly in campaign finance reform, why is money in politics such a big problem? In other words, why don't these politicians simply put their money where their mouth is, act with integrity, and do a better job of policing their own campaigns?
I agree with him that a big problem exists. Special interest money has a huge influence in Washington, and it has a tremendous effect on both foreign and domestic policy. Yet we ought to be asking ourselves why corporations and interest groups are willing to give politicians millions of dollars in the first place. Obviously their motives are not altruistic. Simply put, they do it because the stakes are so high. They know government controls virtually every aspect of our economy and our lives, and that they must influence government to protect their interests. Our federal government, which was intended to operate as a very limited constitutional republic, has instead become a virtually socialist leviathan that redistributes trillions of dollars. We can hardly be surprised when countless special interests fight for the money. The only true solution to the campaign money problem is a return to a proper constitutional government that does not control the economy. Big government and big campaign money go hand-in-hand.
The so-called reform legislation being proposed is clearly unconstitutional. The First amendment unquestionably grants individuals and businesses the free and unfettered right to advertise, lobby, and contribute to politicians as they choose. More importantly, the Constitution does not grant Congress the power to regulate campaigns. In fact, article II expressly authorizes the regulation of elections, so the omission of campaigns is glaring. While some in the media have raised First amendment questions, few seem to understand that Congress clearly lacks the constitutional power to regulate campaigns at all.
Campaign finance reform really means more regulations, more controls, more telling the American people how they can spend their money and how they can lobby Congress. Your freedoms should not be restricted because some politicians cannot control themselves. The problem is that there are members of Congress who yield to the temptation and influence of money, who effectively sell their votes to those who can give them money and keep them in office. If enough members did not yield to the temptation, they would not have to posture with phony campaign finance reform bills and they would not have to undermine the Constitution.
We need to get money out of government. Only then will money not be important in politics. Campaign finance laws will not make politicians more ethical, but they will make it harder for average Americans to influence Washington.