04.04.2011 2

Campaign Spending Limits are Dead

By Rick Manning – Imagine the uproar if one candidate for president refused to accept the campaign spending limits that he voted for, and proceeded to outspend his opponent by more than a 3 to 1 margin.
I’m sure you heard the repeated cries of outrage from Common Cause and other “reformers” from the left.

What? You didn’t know that Barack Obama spent more on his campaign in 2008 than George W. Bush and John Kerry combined in the previous presidential election?

You didn’t know that John McCain, constrained by campaign finance limitations, and his own crusading in favor of them, spent $227 million to Obama’s $740 million?

Why is this old news important or timely?

Obama has announced that he is ramping up for another term, with fundraising expectations that dwarf previous campaigns. The difference is that no Republican challenger in his or her right mind will hamstring their campaigns by taking matching funds and consigning their campaign to watching Obama dominate the paid airwaves when they are pinching pennies for a push in the last couple of weeks.

The great campaign spending limitation experiment is dead, and it died without a whimper from those who have spent lifetimes decrying monies influence on politics — all because their favored candidate wielded the knife.

In Wisconsin, Republicans are re-learning this lesson as incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser is facing a public employee union-fueled challenge from the left in an attempt to take control of the state’s Supreme Court. Wisconsin, the original good government state, has rigid campaign finance spending rules.

In the aftermath of the passage of collective bargaining laws, Justice Prosser is facing a $3 million public employee union spending onslaught through the Greater Wisconsin Committee featuring a commercial that falsely accuses him of shielding a child molesting priest as a prosecutor. Even the left-leaning Politifact has given the ad a low rating on its Truth O Meter.

Once again, because Justice Prosser is trapped conforming to campaign spending limitations, these false ads are going largely unchallenged as he struggles to tell his story.

At one time, campaign reformers could argue that campaign spending limits benefit the electorate with a straight-face. Today, in the wake of Obama’s 2008 and promised 2012 campaigns, and the Wisconsin Justice race that will determine the future of the state’s collective bargaining laws, no one can pretend any longer that campaign spending limitations do anything except put those that accept them at a strong disadvantage.

It is time, to level the playing field and get rid of political spending limits, taxpayer-funded matching funds and stop the charade. Although it is not hard to predict that when the right decides to play by the same financing rules that Obama and his cronies are using, the nation will be subjected to a chorus of condemnation in the New York Times from the formerly silent left.

Let’s hope that Republican candidates for president are smart enough to reject matching funds and the limitations on spending that accompany them. We cannot afford to unilaterally disarm in this upcoming election by accepting campaign funding limits, when President Obama will be spending 3 to 4 times that amount.

Rick Manning is the Communications Director of Americans for Limited Government.

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