Change? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Change

Today Politico Arena asks:

Can the DISCLOSE Act, with exemptions carved out for large special-interest groups, effectively rein in the influence of spending in campaigns?

My response:

It’s been a bad week for Barack Obama. His Tuesday night Oval Office speech, the first of his presidency, was panned by left and right alike, not least on the comedy channels. And now at week’s end congressional Democrats have had to pull their answer to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that he so ridiculed during his State of the Union Address – because Blue Dog Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus have balked. Still worse, although it looks like nothing will come of this latest effort by Democrats to rig campaign finance law in their favor, the damage has been done by the union and NRA carve-outs in the DISCLOSE bill – shades of ObamaCare’s Cornhusker kickback. Democrats don’t seem to get it. The voters want change, not this.
But how could it be otherwise? This mostly Democratic campaign finance crusade over several decades, resulting in an incomprehensible body of regulations replete with draconian sanctions for missteps, has been an utter failure on its own terms. Designed nominally to get the corrupting influence of money out of politics, every restriction has been followed by ever more money in politics, because the real aim has nothing to do with corruption and everything to do with incumbency protection – by making it ever-more difficult to mount a challenge to congressional incumbents. In this morning’s Wall Street Journal Kim Strassel gives us a glimpse of that as it has unfolded in this latest effort at “reform.” But all you really need to know is that in over half of our states we have virtually no campaign finance restrictions, and there’s no more corruption in those states than in the others. Sometimes facts settle issues, and there’s one big one.