Monday, April 09, 2007

Interesting article

An interesting article from George Will today. Perhaps a second look at Fred Thompson is needed before encouraging him to run for the presidency-

In 1996, Thompson worked successfully, unfortunately, to preserve the (currently collapsing) system of public financing of presidential campaigns. His arguments were replete with all the rhetoric standard among advocates of government regulation of political speech: Government regulation of politics is necessary to dispel "cynicism" about government (has that worked?), to create a "level playing field" and to prevent politics from being "awash with money" (Congressional Record, May 20, 1996).
In a news release that day he warned of money from "special interests" and asserted that the checkoff system "flat out worked" because in 1994, 24 million taxpayers checked the "yes" box on their Form 1040, thereby directing that $3 of their income tax bill go to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. He asserted that "on average, 20 percent of Americans participate in the checkoff." Well.
In 1994, according to the IRS, the checkoff was used on 16.3 million, or 14 percent, of the 114.8 million individual tax returns, so a landslide of 86 percent of forms were filed by taxpayers who rejected participation. Today, use of the checkoff has sunk to just 9.6 percent. Its unpopularity is unsurprising, given that it has allowed a small minority to divert, in a bookkeeping dodge, $1.3 billion of federal revenue to fund the dissemination of political views that many taxpayers disapprove of as much as they disapprove of public funding of politics.
Back then, Thompson believed, implausibly, that voters are "deeply concerned" about campaign finance reform. Today, many likely voters in Republican primaries are deeply concerned about what Thompson and others have done to free speech in the name of "reform," as John McCain is unhappily learning.

I know some folks don't want to hear this, but perhaps Fred Thompson is not as conservative as some people are telling us he is.


Craig Dunkerley said...

I'm actually pleased to hear Fred Thompson favors public financing of campaigns. It's not "government regulation of political speech" as some have suggested; the government has no control whatever over what a particpating candidate says with their public campaign funds. And if I can't donate to a candidate I want to support, it's only because that candidate chose to forego private donations so they wouldn't owe any favors to anyone except the voters if they got elected. Sounds pretty fair to me and many other Republicans feel the same: President Teddy Roosevelt advocated it in 1907, Barry Goldwater warned of the undue influence of private money as recently as 1987, and current supporters include Senators George Voinovich, Arlen Specter, Warren Rudman (ret'd), Alan Simpson (ret'd), and Connecticut's Republican Governor Jodi Rell who enjoys the highest voter approval rating of all governors in the U.S. The main reason few Americans check off the box on their tax returns is because they don't really understand how public financing works and how it makes government more accountable to voters instead of large private donors. A poll in June '06 showed that once it was explained to them, 74% of voters favored it. (For more non-partisan info see

jeff said...

I would have no problem looking at public financing of campaigns as long as ALL special interests(labor unions, public interest groups,etc.)are prevented from giving money to candidates not just the "evil" corporations. Also any 'issue ads' allowed would be required to list all groups and individuals who donated money to pay for them as part of the commercial not simply the now required "authorized and paid for by innocent-sounding name group".