Repeat after me: YOU CANNOT GET MONEY OUT OF POLITICS.
And anybody who tells you that you can get money out of politics is either deluded, lying, or possibly both. Exhibit A: the upcoming Democratic convention in Charlotte, NC. The Democrats piously declared that of course no dirty, dirty corporate/lobbyist money would be allowed to be spent on putting the convention together. And everybody cheered… only, it’s now 2012 and there’s potentially a looming shortfall in fundraising. And lo! – here are some lobbyist and corporate donors.
Sure, they can’t contribute… under the old rules. But rules are flexible things, are they not? A corporation can’t contribute directly. But it’s all right for their executives to write large personal checks, or contribute the equivalent in goods and/or services, or launder it through a corporate charity. As for lobbyists… well. The DNC likes to see its friends happy – friends being defined as ‘people who bundle together a lot of personal contributions and/or corporate in-kind donations’ – and if VIP access and nice hotel rooms make friends happy, then that warm, happy feeling would be its own reward, yes?
I’m actually not particularly upset at the idea that the Democrats were dumb enough to take a policy position that would inevitably force them to become hypocrites. Aside from the sheer pleasure of watching them tie themselves in knots like this, there’s also the opportunity to make the whole thing into a teaching experience. To wit: money cannot be gotten out of politics. It never has in the past; it’s certainly not out of politics now; and it won’t be in the future. As soon as one way of injecting money into politics goes away, another one opens up. Because people want to inject money into politics, and they rather outnumber the people who do not.
This fact annoys certain elements of the Left no end. But not as much as the fact that the Right has noted that the standard progressive response to speech that they don’t like is some variant of a lynch mob; which fact is the primary pragmatic reason why we’re not moving towards an environment of greater transparency in donations. I may think that anonymous donations may be a truly regrettable necessity, but that does not mean that I don’t recognize that it is, in fact, a necessity.
None of this excuses the Democrats for their hypocrisy, of course. If you’re going to take the position that a donation is not a form of free speech explicitly protected by the Constitution, then you really should live by the implications of your own belief system. If you cannot, please do not insist that I live by them, either.*
PS: You cannot get money out of politics.
*Mind you, I may not feel like living by the implications of your belief system even if you can, too.