If you’re looking for someone to blame for creating the environment that led to the Abramoff scandal, a good place to start is with campaign finance reform.
Ever since Congress and the FEC began limiting the amount of money American citizens may contribute to political candidates, they have been increasing the power of lobbyists. Aside from the fact that this was a patently un-American limit on free speech – this so-called campaign finance “reform” has fostered an environment where lobbyists may legally contribute more money to a candidate than an individual can.
Because of these limits, candidates must now spend vast amounts of time fundraising. And savvy political candidates, who value time as their most important commodity, have discovered they get more bang for their buck by raising money from lobbyists, who, by law, are allowed to contribute more money than you or I, as citizens, can.
This environment certainly doesn’t excuse the outrageous and unethical behavior of those who have abused the system. But it helps explain whey we are in this mess.
Predictably, this recent scandal has led to lots of speculation that we need more reform. First of all, it is a fallacy that Jack Abramoff represents Washington Lobbyists. The vast majority of lobbyists are good people. This case is the exception – not the rule.
McCain/Feingold clearly didn’t prevent this scandal from taking place. In fact, I would argue that it made such a scandal more likely. So the last thing we should do right now is support a knee-jerk “reform” movement that won’t really fix the problem.
Yes, real reform is needed. But true reform must involve more freedom of speech, not less. Real reform will put the power back in the hands of the people by allowing individuals to seize back control of their government. American citizens ought to be allowed to contribute as much money as they want to a political candidate, provided all donations are immediately made public. Technology would allow candidates to instantly post contributions on the internet. Now that would be true reform!
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