Will Justice Roberts Legislate from the Bench??

Crossposted from Hillbilly Report.

You know, the hypocrisy of Repubicans has become quite astounding. They whine and moan about welfare but dole out hundreds of billions in Corporate Welfare. They talk about "capitalism", but fell in love with the no-bid contract. They talk about keeping us safe while incompetently allowing the worst attack ever on American soil. They rail against the Obama stimulus while they never mention the Bush banking bailout and his crashing of the economy. They rail against the inefficiency of government, government that they completely failed in running.

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Lawrence Lessig on Forbin Problems

One of the highlights at the recent Aspen Ideas Festival was this presentation by Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. The title of his talk was Will Technology Change Our Life? but that's a bit of a misnomer. His talk really centers on Forbin Problems, a type of problem we face increasingly as we become more dependent on technology and the "experts" who devise complex and often esoteric solutions.

Take financial derivatives for example. David Smick, a global economic policy strategist and financial adviser to the high and mighty, argued in his book, The World Is Curved that the Obama Administration shouldn't attempt to regulate derivatives nor the shadow bank system (i.e. hedge funds) because these instruments were too complex and these institutions too critical to the world economy. His argument was that legislators shouldn't try to regulate what they can't understand. This is a Forbin Problem.

In his talk, Professor Lessig provides examples on how Forbin Problems affect public policy making and takes a critical stance on the pernicious role of lobbying in politics.

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Great ad from Campaign Money Watch on McCain

Now, we should demand that McCain give the money back -- and keep the pressure on, make it a campaign.

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WSJ: "New McCain Fund Gets Around Donation Limits"

John McCain is at it again, stretching the bounds of campaign finance law. Elizabeth Holmes has the story for The Wall Street Journal:

To help ease their fund-raising woes, John McCain's campaign has devised a new system to increase the maximum amount an individual can donate to the unofficial Republican nominee's election efforts.

Campaign manager Rick Davis released the details of the "McCain Victory 08" fund on Friday. He said the entity is a joint committee, combining the McCain campaign, the Republican National Committee and four key states under a "hybrid legal structure."

The idea is to tap donors for more than the $2,300 limit set by campaign finance laws. Under legislation pushed by McCain in his role as a senator from Arizona, an individual can donate a maximum of $2,300 to a presidential primary campaign and the same amount to the general election campaign. Although McCain received the number of delegates necessary to secure the nomination in March, he will not be the party's official nominee until the convention in September--so he is still running a primary campaign.

The new structure allows up to $70,000 in individual contributions by channeling the money into different McCain-centric funds. The first $2,300 of that would go to McCain's primary campaign. The Republican National Committee would receive $28,500 of the donation. The remaining funds would be divided equally, up to $10,000 a piece, among four states the campaign has designated as battlegrounds for November: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico.

In and of itself, these hybrid committees are not problematic. In fact, a number of politicians have such committees. What's more, it's not even that such committees violate the letter or even spirit of campaign finance law, in and of itself.

But there's a problem of optics for McCain. When a politician's key legislative accomplishment is campaign finance refom -- legislation that limits contributions to $2,300 per person per election (a number that goes up for inflation) -- but then that politician figures out a way to solicit contributions more than 30 times the size of that ostensible limit, it just doesn't look great. When you tack on the fact that there remain multiplequestions about whether that politician is in fact following the letter of campaign finance and ethics laws, then you may have a problem: That politician will have a lot more difficulty sounding credible, whether on the issue of reform or other issues altogether.

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Obama: Small Dollar Online Fundraising Akin to Public Financing

More and more it appears that, if nominated, Barack Obama will not accept public financing in a general election.

With all the "Will he? Won't he?" ponderings about whether Barack Obama will accept public financing, check out this comment from the senator last night at a Washington fundraiser:

"We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it, and they will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally reserved for the wealthy and the powerful," Obama said, reports NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan.

John McCain's team has made an issue of Obama's suggestion that he'd consider public financing, in large measure, of course, because McCain hasn't shown nearly the fundraising prowess. It's a fair plea, however. A person can't change the influence of money on politics without opting out of the broken system. But Obama's comment signals with some finality, finally, his intention to bypass the system.

Frankly, Obama is not taking money from PACs and Washington lobbyists, and his camp can show that Obama's effort has largely been floated by small-dollar contributions. What would he have to prove by signing up for public financing?

John McCain and his surrogates are going to make a lot of hay about this -- they have to because there's no way that the McCain campaign would be able to compete dollar for dollar with the massive grassroots fundraising organization that is the Obama campaign -- but McCain has little credibility here. Remember, there remains an outstanding FEC complaint against McCain alleging that he is in violation on campaign finance law, specifically by blowing past the mandatory spending cap that comes along with acceptance of public financing. In this case, McCain opted in to the public finance program for the primaries, enjoyed benefits from it (partially conditioning a loan on American taxpayer dollars and gaining expensive ballot access from his certification in the program), only to unilaterally (and not clearly legally) pull out of the program without the acceptance of the Federal Election Commission.

And Jennifer Skalka over at The Hotline, who wrote the quoted post above, makes the fine point that Obama really is adhering to the spirit of campaign finance reform by refusing PAC and federal lobbyist donations. This pledge is made all the more important by the fact that the McCain campaign is chockfull of federal lobbyists, some of whom continued to lobby even from the so-called "Straight Talk Express."

Finally, going beyond the optics and ethics of a move towards grassroots rather than public financing for a general election, it's fairly clear that by opening up his campaign to contributions from the American people, Obama would greatly enhance his ability to win in November. Note that Obama is raising significantly more money that McCain in hard dollars -- roughly $130 million to less than $40 million in the first quarter of 2008, for instance. Note also that while much if not most of Obama's haul is coming from relatively small dollar donors, a relatively small portion of McCain's take (just $4 million of $15 million) comes from small dollar donors. And while the candidate who raises and spends the most money doesn't always win, recent elections have shown it generally to be the case that the bigger spender does tend to win.

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