Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Can You Say "$1 Billion Campaign"? I Knew That You Could.

While I can't blame Hillary for playing by the rules, I can blame Hillary for not making the rules tougher:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's decision to reject public financing and its accompanying spending limits throughout her presidential campaign could pressure White House rivals to quickly follow suit.

Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, opened her White House campaign on Saturday and quickly became the first presidential candidate in history to reject taking taxpayer dollars if she reaches the general election -- which in this race would be nearly $84 million.

A proven fund raiser, Clinton is expected to raise much more than that if she wins the Democratic nomination. As soon as she was in the race, she began taking donations on her Web site for both the primaries and the general election.
The whole idea behind public campaign financing was so that uberrich folks wouldn't be able to fund a campaign solely on small pools of their own and their cronies' money. By accepting public funds, you agree to abide by campaign finance rules, including contribution limits, PAC funding, and spending rules. These rules were put in place in the wake of the Nixon re-election debacle, including Watergate and the slush fund that was created by the Committee To Re-Elect the President (the aptly named CREEP) which defrayed the legal expenses of the arrested burglars. It's represented by that little box you check each year on your 1040 tax form. I may not check it this year in protest.

Both Bush and Kerry opted out of the public financing system for the primaries, altho both opted in for the general election, which put Kerry at an huge disadvantage, because the Republican convention was weeks after the Democratic one, and the public financing kicked in as soon as the party nominated Kerry (and of course, he accepted it, which he had to within a set period or forfeit the funds). So Bush had the enormous advantage of spending his private primary money, and used it wisely: thus was born the Swift Boat ad campaign, which Kerry could not effectively respond to, in part because his spending was limited and he needed to conserve his money for when Bush was formally re-nominated and himself accepted public funds.

The public finance limits for this election are $50 million for the primaries, and $84 million for the general election. The candidate can match those figures in private donations (so long as they adhere to the rules for fund raising). Hillary has $14 million left from her 2006 re-election bid, and could easily raise an additional $120 million in the next 18 months. Remember, she's not limited by any campaign finance rules now, so any amount from nearly any source will be accepted. She is expected to raise over $100 million just for the primaries.

Did someone say she can't win?