Flow of Money Good When It Is Transparent
Jesse Unruh, the cigar-smoking, portly and now deceased speaker of the California Assembly, coined the phrase "Money is the mother's milk of politics."
For many years, we have passed laws and put politicians in prison to control the milk supply. Yet it still flows in torrents from K Street in Washington to Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, where the cows still flock to their milking machines.
And we, who haven't enough money to be part of the giving, feel left out and overwhelmed by the "democratic process." The people are clearly upset. But what should be done?
Since the Watergate scandal, Congress has erected legal barriers to campaign giving. In the early days, Eugene McCarthy, the anti-Vietnam War Democratic senator credited with making President Johnson withdraw from a 1968 bid for re-election, opposed such laws.
McCarthy, as a plaintiff in the case of Buckley v. Valeo, pointed out to the United States Supreme Court that without "financial angels" like his Max Palevsky, this unknown Minnesota senator would never have had the chance to effectively unseat a president of the United States.
Democrats revere Harry Truman but ignore the fact that the money and influence of mobster Tom Pendergast took this bankrupt men's clothing retailer out of obscurity into the U.S. Senate and eventually to the presidency.
To some, money is evil. When the Koch Brothers support the tea party movement, Democrats cry foul. But when George Soros places his fortune at the disposal of the Obama administration, the left-wing guns are silent. The fact is that, as the Supreme Court has recognized, free speech often depends on the monetary contributions of those who support democracy by putting "their money where their mouth is."
I despise George Soros and the currency he manipulates to bring down American exceptionalism. I am thankful every day that David H. Koch donated substantial funds to the Heritage Foundation and Freedomworks after he donated $100 million to Lincoln Center. But I also believe that if these men were legislated into jail for their political activities, American democracy would suffer a mortal wound.
So-called "good government" types believe that anything they dislike could and should be made illegal. They gave us the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law to control the flow of milk to politics. The result was that President Obama is well on the way to garnering $1 billion to re-elect his regime and employ his campaign finance attorneys.
In the past 35 years, America has spent millions on a Federal Elections Commission and on special prosecutors trying to stop campaign donations while coffers just get fatter, the fundraising dinners just get more expensive, and the public just gets more alienated. Something is wrong with our approach.
Indeed, democracy depends on money given freely by those interested in making America a better place to live. As long as all sides have access to donations, then democracy works, if not well, then better than the alternatives. We need not regulate more. Like most endeavors of government, campaign contributions need to be regulated more effectively.
Money ought not be eliminated from politics, but it ought be made more transparent.
First, donations, whether from corporations or from unions, ought not be banned. They just need to be made public. If Koch Industries wants to contribute to Ron Paul and the unions want to give to Obama, let them give, but let the public know immediately who supports whom.
Next, the tax code should erase all of its distinctions between the 501(c)(3)'s, Super PACS and political candidates. All contributions should be treated the same, and no contribution to a political cause should ever be turned into a tax deduction. In fact, this could be done at the same time we eliminate all tax deductions, lower rates and initiate a single flat rate for everyone.
Lastly, only Americans and American organizations would be allowed to give anything.
As long as we know who gives to whom, that only Americans are giving and that no one is getting a tax deduction for it, then the rest of the laws can be eliminated, the jails can be emptied, and we can let democracy, messy as it is, actually take place.
Revolutionary War financier Hayim Solomon, our original Countrywide, not only financed the first American war bonds but also supported James Madison while the politician attended the Continental Congress. He even made interest-free loans to Jefferson and Monroe. In 1776, we knew that to remove money from democracy is like trying to change the climate, hold back the tides or eliminate original sin.
It is better to adapt to reality than try to change it. It is better for democracy to work transparently than to handcuff democracy with attorneys and jails.
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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