Myths about Political Campaigns; American Politics Transformed

Article excerpt

Byline: Barry Casselman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For may years now, I have been suggesting that the dependence on political consultants is destructive to American politics. One of the cliches that always seems to be said about political candidates who don't declare their candidacies early is that they don't have time to raise the money "necessary" to run for political office these days. This is usually accompanied by the predictable lament that political campaigns cost too much.

Those who say these commonplaces rarely take the time to explain just why it is political campaigns have become so expensive.

In fact, the greatest cost of most political campaigns for president, U.S. Senate, many congressional and gubernatorial races is the cost of outside political consultants. The great push for fundraising in these campaigns come from the political consultants hired by the candidates.

And where does much of the money that is to be raised go to? To the political consultants and the television advertising they create and place (for a commission). This is the unspoken vicious secret of American politics today.

And what other lament do we always hear these days? That the candidates have to spend so much time on the phone calling donors and at fundraisers. Is it any surprise that the quality of political discourse has been transformed into TV soundbites, and that candidates have little time to think deeply about and discuss the complicated issues which face the nation? This phenomenon in recent years has brought about attempts to control campaign spending and campaign funding. The most notorious of these attempts was the McCain-Feingold bill and the public financing not only of presidential campaigns, but many statewide races as well.

But there were always loopholes, and the spirit of the campaign-financing laws have not only been broken, but the loopholes have produced worse outcomes and circumstances than existed prior to their enactment.

McCain-Feingold is now history. Most of the major presidential candidates have now said they will raise their own money without limit. The 2004 presidential campaign brought in politically motivated billionaires to spend huge amounts of unregulated funds on behalf of their candidates.

In anticipation of another round of this in 2008,vast sums of money are being sought to, in effect, circumvent the spirit of the campaign laws.

Sen. John McCain meant well, but he violated the principle of the freedom of Americans to support the candidates of their choice, not only with their vote and their voices, but with cash. …