F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
January 16, 2000
Too Much 'Cooperation' in Washington



F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Campaign finance reform is a cynical ploy to protect incumbents from defeat.



In a report published by the Cato Institute, attorneys William Olson and Alan Woll emphasize that our "system of checks and balances works to limit government only insofar as each unit in the system understands its responsibilities and carries them out. When a system of checks on power -- pitting power against power -- ceases to function in an adversarial way and functions instead 'cooperatively' -- with each unit working hand in hand with the others, pursuing 'good government' solutions to human 'problems' -- government necessarily grows," the two attorneys assert. "Since there is no end to the problems government thus transformed might address, government becomes like a business, where success is defined by growth in size and scope."

Olson and Woll point to President Clinton's increasing use of executive orders and decrees as "an obvious usurpation of both the powers delegated to the legislative branch and those reserved to the states." As egregious examples, they cite his Proclamation establishing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, and his Executive Orders initiating hostilities against Yugoslavia, creating the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, and redefining federalism. While acknowledging that some of Clinton's usurpations have been challenged and defeated, Olson and Woll warn that "our liberties are at risk as long as Congress, the courts, and the states fail to exercise their constitutional responsibilities to check the growth of presidential power."

Unfortunately, many Members of Congress are more zealous in protecting their positions than they are in protecting the Constitution. Cato Institute President Ed Crane charges that "the political class fears nothing more than a well-funded challenger," and for that reason recommends repeal of the $1,000 limit on campaign contributions. "Under the current system," he complains, "you either have to be a full-time professional politician or political activist with name recognition to have a chance, or be independently wealthy. But how many good candidates pass up a run for office because they lack the name recognition, don't have massive mailing lists from a lifetime in politics, and don't like grubbing for thousands of small contributions?"

Crane is appalled that "three of the major presidential candidates at this point -- Al Gore, Bill Brad-ley, and John McCain -- endorse 'reforms' that tear at the very fabric of the First Amendment. Money should be viewed as a proxy for information in political campaigns," he contends. "When the political class insists there's too much money in politics, what they are really saying is that there is too much money they don't control in politics."

Crane considers it ironic that "the biggest 'special interest' of all in this debate is the media themselves. While they self-righteously condemn outside money in political campaigns, it is they (along with incumbents) who would benefit most from the restrictions," he observes. "They become even more powerful gate-keepers of information going to the public. The media and the political class favor campaign finance reform not to clean up politics," Crane concludes, "but to stifle open, honest debate that would be out of their control."


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