Thursday, April 17, 2008

Guest Commentary Advice to Bob Schaffer Misses Point on Campaign Finance

Today, the Denver Post runs a guest column from a lobbyist calling on Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer to repent from his indirect associations with a more infamous lobbyist. The lobbyist is David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch - a group that lobbies for public financing of federal elections.

Donnelly writes purportedly with advice to help Schaffer free himself from public perceptions of conflicted associations with a less reputable lobbyist:
He ought to unabashedly repent, first for his actions, and then for defending a campaign finance system that puts the interests of lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and political donors like factory owners in the Northern Marianas ahead of those, like exploited workers, who need government to listen to them. [emphasis added]
But there is no reason for Bob Schaffer to take advice on the issue from someone who lobbies full-time for a failed vision of campaign finance reform which he thoroughly disagrees.

Let's be clear: Schaffer is not a defender of the current campaign-finance system, and has been a critic of policies that purport to "take the money out of politics," while placing limits on political free speech. This has been a consistent principle of Schaffer's throughout his career in public office.

Donnelly says Schaffer should "repent" of his views on campaign finance. But the evidence calls for Donnelly to repent of his faith in the public-financing system: a system that promotes incumbent protection, while bringing NO improvements to candidate participation, voter turnout, lawmaker behavior, or public confidence in government. It's a system for which only 6 percent of American taxpayers have demonstrated support.

Neither Donnelly nor the candidate he seeks to admonish support the status quo, which protects incumbents and shifts money from the control of parties and candidates to unaccountable, third-party 527 groups. But Donnelly wants to replace it with an ineffective and unpopular public campaign-finance system that keeps in place incumbent protection and adds further limits to political free speech. On the other hand, Schaffer supports a system of campaign finance more in line with the Founders' vision, removing limits on political free speech, that preserves public accountability through full and immediate transparency.

It's an issue of liberty. Donnelly may have noble intentions, but his agenda is failed and outdated. There is no reason for Bob Schaffer to pay him heed.

But what about Mark Udall, the only candidate in the race to take money from Jack Abramoff-associated firms?

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