My buddy Tom Hamburger of the L.A. Times is out this a.m. with a fine piece that brings together the new almost-anything-goes norms of fund-raising in the age of the SuperPACs with the pending reshuffle of the dates of the early primaries and caucuses and comes to this conclusion (although not stated quite this bluntly):
The Republican nomination battle will be decided, or nearly so, before the public has a reasonable idea of who is bankrolling the campaigns of the major contenders.
This is disturbing and someone needs to figure out a better system of campaign finance (but don’t count on that happening, this election cycle or any foreseeable cycle.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s disastrous “Citizens United” ruling, the big money players have figured out how to organize SuperPACs which give unprecedented freedom for wealthy donors and yes, big corporations, to funnel virtually unlimited sums into the campaigns of their favored candidates. The advertising blitizes run by these SuperPACs are even worse than the ones run by the campaigns themselves, because the candidates don’t have to take any accountability for the half-truths they contain. (“Half-truth” is a generous word choice, in this instance.) The ads are attributable to the various meaningless names of the SuperPACs like Americans for Goodness and Justice.
This is all old news. The new news is that the primary and caucus season is now being frontloaded to such an unprecedented degree that the Iowa caucuses will almost certainly occur in 2011 and the first five caucuses and primaries will be over (and, in all likelihood, the nomination battle will be over or down to two candidates) before the first date by which the SuperPACs have to make any disclosure of which millionaires and big corporations have paid for the brainwashing ads that secured the nomination for the lucky winner.
I know that under the various Supreme Court doctrines (“corporations are people and have the rights of individual Americans,” “money is speech and therefore money to pay for political commercials is protected by the First Amendment”) it is very difficult to legislate a sane campaign finance regimen that gives proper weight to other important values, such as bringing the counrty’s money power into some better balance with its people power. And it would also be naïve to assume that mere diclosure of the sources of the money would create a proper balance. But, c’mon.