McCain Continues Effort to Delegitimize Election

I have noted already efforts by the Republicans to delegitimize this year's election, namely by trying to call into question the newly registered voters -- an effort, it seems, that is more aimed at framing the way the election is viewed after the fact than it is about changing voter sentiments ahead of the election. As a part of this broader argument, John McCain is now claiming that the record fundraising haul by Barack Obama raises questions of corruption.

John McCain said this morning that Barack Obama's record $150 million fundraising haul last month was the sort of take that could eventually cause corruption and would lead to another overhaul of the campaign finance system.

"What's going to happen, particularly if you've got an incumbent president, and we no longer stick to the finance -- the public financing, which was a result of the Watergate scandal?" McCain said on "Fox News Sunday." "So what's going to happen? The dam is broken. We're now going to see huge amounts of money coming into political campaigns, and we know history tells us that always leads to scandal."

Of course McCain doesn't mention the fact that this money came in chunks no greater than $2,300 -- or fifteen-ten-thousandths of a percent of what Obama raised in the month of September alone (to what extent, exactly, such a relatively small contribution could corrupt is left unsaid by McCain) -- and that the average contribution was just $86, which is far from the type of money that could corrupt a presidential candidate. Nevertheless, the smears and innuendo from McCain and his campaign persist.

But think, for a moment, what the money means. You have no doubt seen the argument, both in the run up to the general election and since, that the public financing program is broken. Although $85 million sounds like a good deal of money upon which to wage a campaign, realistically one can only maintain a serious on-air effort in fewer than a dozen states with such restricted financing. As a result, we have seen the same swing states receiving the bulk of advertisements in recent presidential elections, with many, if not most, voters not being spoken directly to by the candidates and their campaigns.

Obama has been able to begin to reverse the trend on the basis of his healthy grassroots fundraising numbers, advertising in about a dozen and a half states, as well as nationally. States like Indiana, North Carolina, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Georgia, Colorado and Virginia -- states that have largely been ignored in years past -- have been added to the traditional battleground states this year as a direct result of the increased funding for the Obama campaign, allowing millions more voters to have a stronger say in the direction of the country.

And more broadly, how much money is too much money to be spent on the election? This graf from a New York Times article over the weekend jumped out at me, but not likely for the reason it was intended to.

Here in Philadelphia, the biggest media market in a critical state, both candidates showed a mix of positive and negative advertisements on Friday. The spots seemed to show up across the dial as regularly as the affable Geico gecko or the ambling ne'er-do-wells of

Is it really a bad thing if messages about the direction of the country reach voters at the same rate as Geico ads or ads? This is the future of the country we're talking about, it's the future of the world. Shouldn't we be seeing at least as many ads relating to the election -- if not more -- as we are about efforts to bamboozle consumers into paying for extras along with the credit check they are entitled to once a year?

So in the end, what we have here are a bunch of half-truths and confusing conjectures by Republicans to make it seem like the Obama campaign is acting nefariously -- in terms of campaign finance, in terms of registering voters, in terms of alleged ties to Bill Ayers, etc. -- when it is simply not the case. Not exactly an honorable campaign tactic, if you ask me, and not even necessarily a campaign tactic as much as a post-campaign tactic to undercut a potential victory by Obama.

Update [2008-10-19 21:27:13 by Jonathan Singer]: Much more on this from Tom Mattzie.

Tags: campaign finance, Fundraising, John McCain (all tags)




This would be easier if Obama would disclose a bit more donor information. In all honesty, the reports of people donating $10,000 in $25 increments got me spooked. It'd be nice to know that this is actually being checked in a serious and thorough manner. I know that it's next to impossible to filter the internet donations as they happen, I mean after the fact.

by vcalzone 2008-10-19 05:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Ambivalence...

It would be very difficult to do, but in the end I believe they'll have to figure out how many small donations from single donors might amount to large sums. If it's a loophole, it's one you could drive a truck through and one that will be exploited in future elections to the detriment of the American people.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-19 06:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Ambivalence...

I think that's a red herring. If I understand correctly, the reporting requirement is on total contributions from any individual. If I make 7 contributions of $30 each ($210), they have to report it. Could I make lots of contributions under numerous variations of a single name (Kibitzer 2006, Kibitzer 2006.1, ...)? Maybe, but there's a couple of catches. First, in order for that to gain any influence, I have to be able to convince the candidate that those were all mine. If I can do so, then the candidate has to report them. If I've exceeded $2,300 then I'm in legal trouble (and probably extra trouble for the obvious fraud). Second, in order to accept the bribe (perhaps without reporting it), the candidate would have to search his/her database (matching the variants) to verify my claim. The candidate and I might get away with it once or twice, but if it happened on any remotely significant scale the truth would come out in a big hurry, and the candidate would be proven to have played a very active role in the fraud.


by Kibitzer 2006 2008-10-19 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Continues Effort to

McCain has amply demonstrated that one can take public financing and yet still raise obscene amounts of money.  If his argument is that the sheer amount of money tends to corrupt, then he has not shown why the amount of money he and the RNC have raised would not have exactly the same effect.  If his argument instead is that corruption results from certain interests donating a disproportionate amount, then he would seem to have a bigger problem than Obama, since he and the RNC are soliciting donations to the RNC in the tens of thousands of dollars.

I think that, going forward, those who favor public financing will have to clearly identify what they believe to be the source of corruption.  The price of campaigning will continue to rise, and so merely identifying a dollar figure as tending to corrupt without taking that into consideration obscures the problem and also may prevent candidates from campaigning effectively throughout the entire country.  

by rfahey22 2008-10-19 05:47PM | 0 recs

So, Johnny McSame, exactly how is it "corrupting" to garner small sums of money from large numbers of people who support a candidate? Isn't that the exact opposite of the kind of corruption McCain-Feingold was designed to limit? There are no large business groups, no fronts for corporations, no titans of industry pretending to be grassroots organizations dumping money into Obama's campaign by the trainload.

The Republicans, and by extension their corporate paymasters, are scared to death of a people's movement to fund political action in America. They will do everything they can to squash it as soon as possible.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-19 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Corruption??

I agree completely, it's an absurd argument which thinly masks the terror the Republicans are facing.  If Obama wins this, which seems likely, the positive reinforcement among 3.1 million donors will likely encourage them to donate in future elections, just look at what happened to Michele Bachman, eh?  Don't get mad, direct debit.  In the context of modern American politics it is immensely powerful stuff and the Republicans know it.  Tough.  We're learning how to play this game now and things are gonna' change.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-10-19 09:37PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Continues Effort to Delegitimize Electi

I think you may need to grease your slide rule:

"...this money came in chunks no greater than $2,300 -- or fifteen-one-thousandths of a percent of what Obama raised in the month of September alone..."

According to mine, that's 1.5 one thousandths of a percent, or 15 ten-thousandths. Of course a couple could get all the way up to 3 ten-thousandths of a percent :).


by Kibitzer 2006 2008-10-19 06:14PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Continues Effort to Delegitimize Electi

And I need to oil my typewriter... That was supposed to be: "Of course a couple could get all the way up to 3 one-thousandths of a percent :)."


by Kibitzer 2006 2008-10-19 06:19PM | 0 recs
Say it with us!

President Obama.
President Barack Obama.
President Barack H. Obama, Jr.
Commander-in-Chief, Barack H. Obama, Jr.

Rolls off the tongue like ice cream.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-19 06:53PM | 0 recs
Troll disappeared...

...and now my comments make no sense.

And yet, somehow, it makes me glad.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-20 05:10AM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Continues to Delegitimize Election

I just love it when REPUBLICANS gripe about how much money we have.

by bushsucks 2008-10-19 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Continues to Delegitimize Election

The Schadenfreude is going to make my head explode. It's making me far too happy.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-19 06:55PM | 0 recs
Desperate? Scared of President Obama?

We will revel in your delicious tears on November 5th.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-19 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: hot new obama mania videos a MUST SEE
Get ready to enjoy your tax cut, "Joe."
by rfahey22 2008-10-19 07:06PM | 0 recs
The Smell of Power

Has Obama reached the fundraising level where he can shift some money to democratic candidates in the congressional races?  This is how a President builds a congressional power base to get his programs enacted.

by TJ1 2008-10-19 07:45PM | 0 recs
Re: The Smell of Power

Can a campaign do that? I thought there was some kind of restriction on donations from campaign to campaign, otherwise Obama's could have paid off Clinton's debt by itself.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-19 09:04PM | 0 recs
Re: The Smell of Power

Obama can run ads featuring himself and local candidates. These can endorse the local and urge his supporters to vote for both of them. Something like Obama and Duckworth working together for the values they both hold.

by DaleA 2008-10-19 09:17PM | 0 recs
Re: The Smell of Power

OK, that makes sense AND it's a great idea, especially in states/districts where Obama is overwhelmingly popular.

The first place for this needs to be Oregon. If Obama got on TV with Merkley, that would kick the legs right out from under Gordon Smith who has been campaigning like he's Obama's long-lost twin.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-20 05:09AM | 0 recs
McCain Continues Effort to Delegitimize Election

This effort will only be somewhat effective if the election is as close as 1976 or 1960.  I really do not think it will be, which means for a lot of Americans this tactic is actually going to backfire.  

by gavoter 2008-10-20 05:31AM | 0 recs


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