527s: Bye Bye

Andrew Stuttaford has a little brief over at the Corner about the new crackdown planned for 527s. You'll recall that 527s raised amazing amounts of cash in the most recent election cycle as a result of the effects of McCain-Fiengold, or as the supporters of the bill refer to it - BPCRA(Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act).

Andrew refers to some McCain-Fiengold opposition that is getting behind the new crackdown on 527s.

I understand his criticism. I didn't like McCain-Fiengold. I think Senator Mitch McConnel had the right position on the bill on the basis of a violation of the free expression clause. Unfortunately, SCOTUS only found a few provisions guilty of a violation of first amendment rights.

But upon review of the 2004 general election I have to conclude that 527s were a vital aspect to telling the stories of the candidates. As they hire operators to market only those aspects of the candidate that they want to release, the 527s were there to talk about everything else. The most effective of these was the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. They absolutely hammered John Kerry during a critical month long period that was the gap between the end of the Democrat Party National Convention and the Republican Party National Convention.

Even today, their impact continues to be felt. The SBVT caught the interest of Anneberg Fellow Thomas Lipscomb. He followed the accusations in order to trace the timeline and veracity of John Kerry's depiction of his activities in Vietnam. As recently as a few weeks ago, John Kerry was on "Meet the Press" again changing his story about the "Christmas in Cambodia" event. He went so far as to say he was running guns on classified CIA missions to the Khmer Rouge. It was another Kerry shocker that had the blogosphere again questioning the judgement of John Kerry.(You can read Lipscomb's latest piece in Oregon Magazine)

The 527 organizations were performing a task that politicians have attempted to avoid - those events that do not make them look like the upstanding citizens they campaign as. While this new opposition is accurate in depicting a 527 organization as having the potential to swoop into your district, in the final weeks, and flood the airwaves with ads paid for by billionaires like George Soros and Peter Lewis, so as to change the election outcome, McCain and other propose we just get rid of the 527s.

A better method is real time disclosure of financial contributions for all political activity. Freshman Congressman Bobby Jindal of Louisiana came as close to this as he could come when he ran for governor of his state. His turn around was about 2 business days for reporting all contributions to his website where anyone could view the data. Jindal barely lost that election, but it didn't take him very long to win another.


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