February 13, 2012 9:10AM

On Campaign Finance Hypocrisy

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Is it rank hypocrisy for the nation’s most prominent critic of super PACs to reverse course and gave his blessing to them, or just common sense in the face of multi‐​million dollar Republican super PAC efforts aimed at ousting him from office?

My response:

There is an element of hypocrisy in Obama’s reversal since he and his party have long been the main proponents of campaign finance “reform” — and let’s remember that he also rejected public funding in his 2008 campaign, even as he and the Democrats have long championed such funding. But he’s also simply bowing to reality: for decades Congress has tried to restrict campaign contributions, but contributors always find a way to make their voices heard. And why not: with government today regulating virtually every aspect of life, you’d better be in the political game.

There are many “dirty little secrets” surrounding campaign finance “reform.” One is that incumbents love it because, far from “leveling the playing field,” it gives them a big advantage over challengers. Another is that proponents regularly confuse the issues: it was not Citizens United that enabled super PACs, for example, but Speech Now v. FEC. And a third is that elections in states like Virginia that have minimal regulations have no more corruption — the prevention of which is the rationale for restrictions — than states with draconian restrictions.

How much better it would be if the First Amendment were fully respected and people and organizations could give unlimited amounts directly to candidates and parties. Then candidates could no longer complain that they can’t control the messages “their” super PACs put out.