July 12, 1999
Campaign reform misses target
Americans could expect higher taxes, fewer choices
Like a bad penny, campaign finance reform is again being pushed as the panacea to the problems in America. And make no doubt about it, there are very serious problems emanating from Washington, DC, which can be traced to the people who hold public office.
The mistake, though, is in thinking the problem can be fixed simply by putting more restrictions on the average American. These so-called reformers hardly offer a solution. The real problem can be traced past the office holders because government has too much influence over our economy and lives, creating tremendous incentive to protect one's self by "investing" in politicians.
There is a tremendous incentive for every special interest group to influence government. Every individual, bank or corporation that does business with government invests plenty in influencing government. Corporate lobbyists spend over $100 million per month trying to influence Congress, while taxpayers' dollars are used by bureaucrats in efforts to convince Congress to protect their "empires." Government has tremendous influence over the economy and financial markets through interest rate controls, contracts, regulations, loans and grants. Corporations and individuals alike are forced to participate in an out-of-control system essentially as a matter of self-defense.
Those pushing finance reform argue the fault rests only with those who are trying to influence government; never is fault assigned, of course, to those congressmen who create the environment that pressures the system to generate abuse. Members of Congress thereby avoid assuming responsibility for their own acts and instead blame those who exert pressure on Congress through the political process, despite the fact that political participation is among the most basic of rights bestowed on all Americans.
All will agree that it is shameful for an elected official to capitulate to well-funded special interest groups. Unwilling to act ethically on their own, politicians will clamor for a system that diminishes the need to persuade individuals and groups to donate money to their campaigns. Instead of persuasion, they endorse coercing taxpayers to finance campaigns. This only changes the special interest groups that control government policy. Instead of voluntary groups making their own decisions with their own money, politicians and bureaucrats dictate how political campaigns will be financed and run.
Politicians and bureaucrats will gain great influence over elections, while Americans will be forced to subsidize politicians with whose ideology the taxpayer may vehemently disagree. Clearly incumbents will greatly benefit by more controls over campaign spending, a benefit to which the reformers will never admit. Other winners will be the media, the wealthy and those with celebrity statues.
The losers include independent and third party candidates, as well as those who believe it is immoral to force people to finance their campaigns.
The biggest "loser," however, will be our American tradition of political expression, and the taxpayers that get stuck with bigger tax bills and fewer liberties.
More regulation of political activism through control of private money, instead of addressing the root problem of an overly-influential government, only drives the money further underground, and thereby giving select groups a strong advantage over the honest candidate who seeks to ethically work for smaller, constitutional government.