The Folly Of Campaign Finance Laws

Over the holiday weekend Politickernj and The Star Ledger  caught up with the good work that MMM contributor Harold Kane did last September in shedding light on political spending in Middlesex County.

Like Kane, Politikernj and The Star Ledger framed their articles as if the PACs set up to funnel campaign donations from engineers, lawyers and their firms to political campaigns were doing something scandalous.   Each of the articles acknowledges that the contributions are legal, yet they say that the donors “skirt” or “cloud” the law or that the contributors are “buying” the candidates that ultimately benefit from the contributions.

The real scandal is that campaign finance laws at every level of government, federal, state, county and local, that are ostensibly designed to eliminate the influence of money in our political system and to increase transparency actually have the opposite effect, by design.

Money is like air and water.  Set up a structure to restrict it and money, like air and water, will find a crack in the structure to get to where it wants to go.  With enough pressure the structure breaks.  Fix or reform the structure and the cycle repeats itself.

Our campaign finance laws decrease transparency in the process.  Kane and the reporters from Politickernj and The Star Ledger spent many unproductive hours combing through ELEC reports of campaigns and PACS to connect the dots.  Not many people have the time or resources to make that effort.  Kane, Politickernj and The Star Ledger reporters did us all a service by connecting those dots.  It is appropriate for the public to know who is financing the campaigns of their candidates for public office.

Restricting the amount of money that a person or entity can contribute to a campaign is inappropriate.  Such restrictions are impediments to free speech and push otherwise well meaning people out of the political process or into breaking ill conceived and complex laws.  Such restrictions don’t and won’t keep “bad money” out of the process.

The only way to increase transparency in the process is to require immediate disclosure of campaign contributions. Removing the limits that candidates and campaigns can accept would reduce the utility of PAC, Super PACs, etc. 

Creating a simple system of full disclosure would increase participation in the political process.  It would increase competition among government contractors and professionals.  It would make the entire process more democratic, which is probably why we won’t see such a simple system anytime soon, if ever.

Posted: April 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign Contributions | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

FEC Questions Little’s Campaign Contributions

By Art Gallagher

The Federal Election Commission has requested that Anna Little’s congressional campaign clarify their post election disclosure over contributions that were received after the conclusion of the general election. FEC regulations state that contributions for the general election be accepted after the polls close only to the extent that the a campaign is in debt.

Little’s November 22 “30 Day Post General Report” indicated that the campaign had $9,677.38 cash on hand.  $14,600 in contributions were received in the three days immediately after the election.  FEC regulations permit campaigns to keep contributions that were mailed and postmarked prior to the conclusion of the election.  Contributions that were hand delivered after the polls closed, if any, would have to be returned to the donors.

The FEC requires that the Little campaign answer their inquiry by January 11, 2012.

MMM has received an inquiry about a rumour that the Little campaign retained over $100,000 in contributions after the election.  That rumour is obviously false.

Posted: December 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Anna Little, Campaign Contributions, FEC | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »