Feature

The morality of campaign fundraising

In politics, morality is “all situational," said Ruth Marcus in the WashingtonPost.com.

Ruth MarcusWashingtonPost.com

Democrats’ “howls of outrage” over Republican campaign spending should be treated “with a hefty helping of cynicism,” said Ruth Marcus. Yes, it’s slimy that Republicans are spending more than $100 million from anonymous donors. But in 2004, the shoe was on the other foot. Democrats set up campaign groups with innocuous-sounding names, raised more than $150 million from labor unions and big-bucks donors, and spent it on attack ads. Thanks to hapless enforcement by the Federal Election Commission, the pro-Democratic groups agreed to pay a measly $1.3 million fine for violating elections laws—three years later.

When it comes to campaign cash, Democrats and Republicans have essentially the same position: When we have more to spend because of some loophole in the law, that’s just fine; when the other side has more money, democracy is being subverted. In 2004, when the Democrats were on their spending binge, Republicans were bemoaning a “total meltdown of federal campaign-finance regulation” and demanding more transparency. Now they say transparency isn’t important. In politics, morality is “all situational.”

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