Thursday, February 7, 2008

Money Makes the World Go Round

Hillary has raised $4 million in 24 hours, which seems impressive until you consider that Barack raised $6 million in 24 hours. As Matt Yglesias observes "Hillary Clinton has put together an amazing organization that's shattering all the records except . . . the ones being created by Barack Obama."
Nevertheless, Hillary saw the need to write her campaign a $5 million loan. Everyone running is rich, but the Clintons are loaded. Seriously, the Clintons are supposed to be a the class act in campaigning. Why are they are they cutting themselves a big check like Mitt Romney or Dick Devos? That's supposed to be for amateurs.
A multi-millionaire cutting her own campaign 5 million isn't just tacky, it also raises questions ethically when it comes to how campaigns ought to be financed.
Mark Kleiman has some thoughts on the matter, which I think asks soem pretty good questions.

1. Why should I give money to a multi-millionaire's campaign not knowing whether it will go to campaign operations or to pay back the candidate?

2. Why should I give money if the candidate will only lend money? Of course, this isn't strictly logical, since lending money is a greater commitment than not lending it. But the loan reminds people that the candidate has money to burn.

3. Should someone who supports limits on individual campaign contributions evade those limits by writing a big personal check? (This applies to contributions as well as loans.) Don't Democrats disapprove of the Romney-Bloomberg style of trying to buy office?

In that regard, consider the words of William Jefferson Clinton:

In response to a question in Cedar Rapids about campaign finance reform, Clinton touched on a possible presidential bid by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"Let's think of somebody I really admire, the mayor of New York City, Mike Bloomberg," Clinton said. "I like him; he's a really good mayor. But if he's runs for president, he can spend a billion dollars and not miss it. That's real money to most of us. Under the law, there are no constraints."

He railed against the Supreme Court for blocking some attempts to limit the influence of money in politics.

"We are very frustrated because we have a Supreme Court that seems determined to say that the wealthier have more right to free speech than the rest of us."

And he implied that he would not use his own funds to support his wife's candidacy.

"For example, they say you couldn't stop me from spending all the money I've saved over the last five years on Hillary's campaign if I wanted to, even though it would clearly violate the spirit of campaign finance reform," he said.

Salt, Mr. President? Ketchup? Relish? [And don't you love that "saved," as if he'd accumulated an eight-figure fortune by living parsimoniously?]

4. This makes the way the Clintons made their money a political issue and not just a personal one. Insofar as they got rich off their political connections, that was a legitimate question anyway, but this accentuates the problem.

5. If HRC wins the election, or if she doesn't and goes back to being a powerful senator, there's going to be a fundraising drive to pay off the debt. Those contributions, unlike routine campaign contributions, will go directly into her pocket. Won't that put her under a special obligation to those donors? And, since those contributions won't actually help her get elected to anything, won't they be especially likely to come from buyers-of-access rather than political supporters?

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