Why Campaign Finance Reformers Love Secrecy

George Will has a look at the new taxpayer financing bill introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois. The bill is said to be the real answer to Citizens United. Mr. Will makes some compelling arguments.

Here is another consideration. Notice that the funding for the bill comes from a special tax on government contractors. Supporters of taxpayer financing are happy: those evil special interests are forced to pay for a system of campaign financing in “the general interest.” Taxpayers are led to think they are off the hook; government contractors will pay for welfare for politicians.

But Durbin’s gambit fails. A tax on government contractors will likely lead to higher costs for the goods and services purchased by the government. Higher costs mean higher spending which sooner or later means higher taxes.

This attempt to obscure the true incidence of taxation suggests that Sen. Durbin knows what polling has shown for several decades now: taxpayer financing does not enjoy majority support, perhaps because people do not wish to be taxed to benefit politicians and causes they reject.

The administration and campaign finance reformers call for “transparency and accountability” regarding independent spending on campaigns. How is this effort to obscure the true incidence of the costs of taxpayer financing of campaigns consistent with that mantra?