Those Corrosive Money Laws - Junk 'Em

Steve Forbes

The recent election underscores the need for a radical overhaul of our increasingly obtuse, antidemocratic, anti-free-speech, corruption-breeding campaign finance laws. Their stupidity is emphasized by a Supreme Court case over whether a feature film that was critical of Hillary Clinton, and the ads promoting it, are subject to campaign finance regulations. John McCain was badly hurt by having to opt for federal money - he had little choice but to do so once his campaign went broke in early 2007. Barack Obama, on the other hand, had promised to adhere to the federal restrictions but chose not to when he realized he could vastly outdo his Republican opponent in fundraising. McCain found himself outspent in the general election by almost $4-to-$1. That's one reason that McCain had so much trouble in such traditionally red states as Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana. Had McCain had the resources to do so, he could also have made a real run in Michigan.

The needed reforms are simple:

-No more restrictions on individual giving. A person should be able to donate as much as he wants to a candidate as long as the amount is posted immediately on the Internet. That way people could instantly see who is giving what to whom.

-Every name of a donor to a campaign should be made public. Under current rules those giving less than $200 can remain anonymous. In this Internet era that's an invitation for massive abuse: Individuals can chop up big sums of money into small amounts, make up names and run both through the Internet to a campaign.

Limits on giving don't reduce the influence of special interests; they increase it. Groups can simply get individuals to write out checks, and both unions and activist groups can turn out bodies to knock on doors and drive voters to the polls on Election Day.

The Internet doesn't obviate the need for reform: President-elect Obama received several hundred million dollars from large givers.

Steve Forbes, is President/CEO of Forbes and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine
Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.


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