Saturday, July 15, 2006

Campaign Finance Law Follies, Part One

Many believe that the amounts of money put into political campaigns is 'out of control', so they have championed campaign finance 'reform'. Laws have been written out of this feeling, and it is supposed that the citizenry feels safer because of these laws.

Allow me to begin a series of posts that shows how these laws have affected me in my campaign for Secretary of State. I am a Libertarian candidate for statewide office, and I have raised less than $20,000 thus far. It is a lesson in unintended consequences.

Did you know that I am forbidden from coordinating efforts with fellow Libertarians who happen to be candidates for Federal office?

It's true. Unless I form a Federal political action committee (PAC), I cannot knowingly communicate for the purpose of planning with Libertarian candidate for US Senate Steve Osborn, or with Libertarian candidates for US House District 9 Eric Schansberg, or in District 3 Scott Wise.

I am forbidden from sharing information with them, planning activities with them, doing joint advertising with them, and a host of others, unless I create a Federal PAC. I cannot even link to their campaign websites on this blog or on my campaign website. You will note that I only have links to non-Federal candidates.

I have no interest in creating the Federal PAC. It costs money in addition to the time and energy necessary to fill and file the paperwork. I have raised a modest sum of money thus far, and the people who trust in me and support my efforts with their modest dollars expect me to spend that money on promoting my campaign, not on hiring a paperwork jockey, or setting up shell organizations.

Any well-heeled candidate who doesn't mind the diversion of dollars, volunteer staffing, and energy can be free to set up the PAC and coordinate with their Federal candidates.

In other words, the Democratic and Republican incumbents, who generally have war chests, can afford it. Challengers, and especially those from minor parties, generally cannot afford it.

So, to the backers of campaign finance- Do you feel safer knowing that I cannot plan to attend a parade with Steve Osborn? Do you feel that representative government is made better by my inability to coordinate a press release with Scott Wise or Eric Schansberg?

Scott Wise's campaign contacted me and asked me to stand at his side when he announced his candidacy. I had to decline, because I have not set up a Federal PAC, and do not wish to be subject to Federal scrutiny under BCRA. Scott's campaign was unaware that the laws had this effect, so I advised them.

Obviously, I believe these laws are a sham. All these laws do is trip up, hinder, and waste the time and money of modestly funded challengers.

This is why Libertarians refer to the campaign finance 'reform' laws as Incumbent Protection Plans- because that's exactly how they play out.

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