CNN: Obama dropped ball on campaign reform

Written by admin on October 19th, 2010

CNN opinion piece on how President Obama is also at fault in massive changes in campaign funding strategies that have emerged in this election campaign.


As a candidate, Obama railed against the way that money influenced politics.  He reiterated a long-standing theme of reform-candidates that unless the political process changed, policies would remain the same and Americans would never gain confidence in their government.

But Obama broke from these principles almost as soon as he made the argument. During the campaign, Obama disappointed many campaign reform advocates when he announced that he would not use public funds in the general election campaign so that he could raise an unlimited amount of money in his race against Sen. John McCain.

In 2004, President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry dealt a blow to the public finance system when they didn’t use public funds in their primary election campaigns. But Obama took this decision a step further, rendering one of the more successful Watergate-era reforms ineffective.

Ironically, when he announced his decision he said, “If we don’t stand together, the broken system we have now, a system where special interests drown out the voices of the American people will continue to erode our politics and prevent the possibility of real change. That’s why we must act. The stakes are higher than ever, and people are counting on us.” His campaign then raised an unprecedented amount of money, much of which came from large donors.

Both parties have stood silent as the nation’s campaign finance system erodes. At best they have supported relatively mild reforms like the McCain-Feingold legislation, that have left huge holes for money to flow into the system — and which was weakened by another Supreme Court decision in 2006. According to Craig Holman of the nonprofit group Public Citizen, “This is a low point for the campaign finance reform movement — I’ve never seen it lower.

This a difficult challenge given that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is clearly hostile toward reform. But the president and Congress must consider stronger regulatory mechanisms and the possibility of restoring a system of public finance for campaigns.

Until presidents and congressional leaders decide to make campaign finance reform a priority issue the relationship between money and politics won’t change. This is unfortunate since the way that politics works profoundly influences the type of policies that government can produce.


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