Thursday, June 14, 2012

Money, Campaign Finance, and Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich wants to help candidates by getting rid of the campaign finance law that only allows one person only to give $2,500 directly to a candidate.  With the Citizens United ruling, the invention of super-PACs and the general rise of PACs since the 1970s era Campaign Finance Reform that initially sparked the creation of PACs, we'll continue to see interest groups get more involved in elections both financially and ideologically.  The truth is that people are always going to find loopholes in campaign financing.  Right now, a wealthy donor could give $2,500 directly to a candidate and then state the next $2,500 is from his/her significant other, etc. Or a wealthy donor if he/she so desires could file with the IRS and the FEC to produce their own PAC, Super PAC, 527, or 501c(4) and could potentially give more money to a candidate.  Additionally, there are less restrictions on soft money given to political parties (this is nearly becoming obsolete, stay tuned) and the political party could just give the money to the chosen candidate.  With the Citizens United ruling, companies can move money directly from the financial reserves of a company to a candidate without consulting with individuals.  This ruling is based on the idea that giving money to political candidates is a form of free speech.  This very ruling could have another try on the Supreme Court (possible, I'm not sure how likely). 

Back to Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich thinks that the $2,500 limit is hurting candidates who are not as wealthy as their opponents.  He cites Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an example.  Stating that Mayor Bloomberg was able to spend millions of his own money financing his campaign and that a poorer candidate could not hope to compete.  I tend not to agree with Newt Gingrich but I do a little bit in this case.  I agree that candidates that are rich have an advantage over a poorer candidate.  But eliminating the $2,500 limit of direct contributions is not going to help that.  The super rich could still buy a candidate by contributing directly to a candidate instead of using a Super PAC to be the middleman.  For example, Bill Gates could give $1 billion to whatever candidate he prefers in a given election cycle, in Newt Gingrich's proposal, as long as he reports that he's giving it.  Is that fair to the other 300 million plus Americans?  Probably not.  What we need is accountability for the contributors and politicians; the best way to do that is stricter limits on campaign contributions and regulation in general.  We need to be able place limits and enforce those limits on how much an individual, a PAC, a Super PAC, an interest group in general can give and how much a candidate can take.  If we want to make it a level playing field for all candidates, we can either place stricter limits on contributions for interest groups and individuals or we can have government sponsored campaigns.  We've passed bipartisan campaign reform acts in the past.  We need to do it again.  Accountability, limits, and regulations can make an impact and help more candidates than removing the limit from an individual directly contributing to a candidate.

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