Mass Revolution Now!

Another member of Massachusetts’ reality based community. Maybe honesty IS the best policy.

June 7, 2006

McNamara Slams Gabrieli

by @ 1:33 pm. Filed under Democrats, Massachusetts, Election Reform, Campaign Finance Reform

Eileen McNamara takes Gabrieli to task today in her column. She isn’t too happy with the fact that Gabrieli decided not to pursue public financing. She wants to know if any is nauseated by the fact we are going to spend upwards of $12 million on the gubernatorial campaign and I tend to agree. Here are a couple of great nuggets:

The decision by Christopher Gabrieli to refuse public funds to avoid the spending limits that come with them is fresh evidence of how dysfunctional the campaign financing system has become in Massachusetts.

It isn’t fair to just pile on Gabrieli, afterall other luminaries such as Reed Hillman and Kerry Healey have opted out as well. The departure of Gabrieli, et al is an indication of how far we have to go if we want to ever get out elections back in check. It is notable that the two major candidates opting our are uber-wealthy, it appears that some feel it is possible to buy your way to the top.

This is what the repeal of the Clean Elections Law has wrought — a self-selecting system in which only the rich and the wired have access to the ballot in Massachusetts. The decision of Patrick and Reilly to accept public financing has no practical effect. Because Gabrieli opted out, he gets to set the spending limit, no matter how preposterous, for all three candidates. Unless they intend to commit political suicide, they will try to match Gabrieli check for check.

Finneran left a terrible legacy but few things demonstrate his DINO tendancies more accurately than his role in cutting the knees out on Clean Elections. We had an opportunity in this state, a real opportunity, to lead the nation in dramatically reducing the amount of money influencing our elections and we let a dirt bag like Finneran get his way. I agree with McNamara that with the exit of the clean elections law we can expect to contiue this race to the bottom. However, I disagree that Reilly and Patrick’s choice to opt in has no practical effect. I think it makes them both look good.  That is a practical effect for each candidate.  Plus they get a share of the money which both could use.

However my favorite line in the entire piece comes from Scott Harshbarger who said:

We have a situation where the Democratic Party is mobilizing its millionaires instead of mobilizing its members.

How true.

June 6, 2006

Bogus Gabrieli Statement

by @ 7:54 am. Filed under Democrats, Massachusetts, Campaign Finance Reform, Governor '06

Yesterday both Patrick and Reilly stated that they would opt in for public financing and, as expected, Gabrieli choose not to accept the financing. Personally I think this is a shame. I laid out the reasons why I felt the candidates should accept the financing yesterday. But Gabrieli has decided to add insult to injury. Here is a statement by Gabs on the subject:

These laws were not designed for any of the current candidates for governor, all who have either vast personal wealth or huge campaign war chests. It seems to me there are better uses of taxpayer dollars.

Better use of taxpayer dollar? If I am correct the make up of this $750,000 comes from the volutnary contributions people make when filing their taxes which means it is going for the exact use I want the money to when I contribute. Secondly, this is the best use of the funds. Instead of getting a candidate that can just dump his ridiculous wealth on the primary I can get an equal playing field for all of the candidates. That is what I would prefer. Can’t Gabrieli come up with something better for his reasoning?

June 5, 2006

Public Financing and the LG Candidates

by @ 12:36 pm. Filed under Democrats, Massachusetts, Campaign Finance Reform, Tim Murray, LG Race '06

There appears to be more strategy then I originally thought regarding the public financing. The lieutenant governor race actually has a huge role in the strength or weakness of our ticket on the day after the primary. See if you can follow along because it gets a little loopy.

I didn’t realize that the LG candidates also face the quesiton of public financing. As is likely to occur Murray and Silbert will most likely opt in to the public financing. However Goldberg is like Gabrieli in that she has a ton of personal wealth to draw on. If all three of the LG candidates opt in the spending limit for the LG race will be $750,000. Goldberg spent more than that on the run up to the convention so it is likely that she will not want to restrain herself to that amount in the primary(especially with over a million dollars in the bank right now). Here is the rub. If Goldberg opts out and ultimately wins the primary she will cost the Democratic ticket $750,000. How? Well Reilly and Patrick are likely to opt in to the financing system but we all know that Gabrieli will not. If either Patrick or Reilly win the primary (we know Gabrieli won’t) and they get put on the ticket with Goldberg then the ticket is not entitled to more public financing because the LG candidate did not take the public money. This loss, as I said, would be to the tune of $750,000. Can we afford this loss?

So for those of you who aren’t decided in the LG race ask yourself if strategically we can afford Goldberg? To the Goldberg campaign I ask you this: if you opt out of public financing will you publicly pledge that should you win the primary you will write a check to the ticket you are on for $750,000?

April 6, 2006

House Passes Bill Attacking Free Speech

by @ 10:26 am. Filed under National, Campaign Finance Reform, Civil Liberties

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that would trample free speech while giving even more power to political parties and establishment insiders. The vote was 218-209. The House bill lifts limits on the amount parties can spend on coordinated campaigns while putting significant restrictions on contributions to 527s. (Learn more about 527s.)


January 23, 2006

McCain-Feingold Stays In Place…For Now

by @ 9:43 pm. Filed under National, Law, Campaign Finance Reform

The US Supreme Court ruled today in Wisconsin Right to Life that the group could bring an as applied challenge to McCain-Feingold; the ruling stated nothing more which means that McCain-Feingold will stay unchanged for the 2006 election cycle.

What does this all mean? Well basically it is a lot of law school mumbo jumbo to me. The translation is that Wisconsin Right to Life (obviously a pro-life group) will be allowed to challenge the provision in McCain-Feingold which prohibits the use of corporate or labor union funds to run ads that mention candidates in the immediate pre-election period. In the McConnell case in 2003, the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional on its face this provision of McCain-Feingold. Despite this ruling, WRTL claims the law is unconstitutional as applied to specific ads that it wanted to run prior to the 2004 Senate election in Wisconsin. This means that WRTL, instead of having the court look at the entire provision again which it would not do, is asking the Supreme Court to look at the specific facts of its ads and make a judgment on whether to create an exception.

I am personally pretty supportive of McCain-Feingold and am therefore happy that not much will change for now. I do see some problems with freedom of speech contained in some of the provisions of McCain-Feingold which target labor unions and other groups but given the wide ranging Abramoff scandal there is no more obvious reason for reform than right now.

[Hat tip to Democracy 21 which sent me the email regarding the decision.]

December 19, 2005

Another Celebrity Break Up?

by @ 4:10 pm. Filed under National, Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reform has become synonymous with McCain and Feingold and Shays and Meehan. However, according to the blog Election Law McCain and Shays have moved forward with the next round of reform legislation minus Feingold and Meehan.

Feingold, ever the man of principle, will not support McCain’s new legislation because he feels that the law does not go far enough in the reforms. He wants to see that lobbyists, a HUGE problem in federal corruption (do I even need to mention Abramoff?) are reigned in and not allowed to spread their wicked inflluence. Personally, I think Feingold is on the right track here. Instead of trying to hinder blogs and free speech let us focus on the real problem. It isn’t Daily Kos and mega blogs but rather the mega dollars and mega-egos of lobbyists that are corrupting our campaigns and legislative processes. More kudos for my guy Russ, instead of paying lip service to one of his signature issues he sacrafices the lime light to make sure he gets the right bill, not the right now bill.

November 28, 2005

The Need to Reform

by @ 6:33 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Election Reform, National, Campaign Finance Reform

An article from Saturday’s Globe has been running through my mind these last few days. At first the article was sort of innocous yet informative. However, the more I have thought about the article the more I find that it captures, on a microscopic level, the pull I feel over campaign finance reform.

Apparently Boston City Council President Michael Flaherty raised over two-thirds of his $310,000 from individuals living outside of Boston. I realize that with the large commuter nature of a city the size of Boston’s as well the numerous projects going on in the city at any given time, it would not be unusual for a decent percentage of a candidate’s contributions to come from outside city limits. I think, however, that two-thirds may be a little excessive. That is not was has really been eating at me though. What bothers me is the unvarnished telling of the story the Globe offers. For instance, the article points out that employees at mega-law firm Brown Rudnick provided contributions because the firm “has a large governmental law practice.” Or how about the Millenium Partners, a development firm in New York responsible for luxury condos and the new Ritz Hotel who contributed. Another developer, Intercontinental Real Estate, aslo felt the urge to contribute. What is the connection (if it is not obvious yet)? The Globe, offering that unvarnished approach I mentioned, ties it together perfectly: the connection is that nearly all of the out-of-towners have “business with city government.”

The fact that we have devolved to far that we no longer need to hide or make excuses for the fact that people give money not to support the ideology as much as to buy their way to special projects offends me. We have lost the battle between clean elections and outright graft. These people are giving Flaherty money for one of two reasons, either because they like that he has already supported their projects and therefore they are interested in seeing him re-elected, or, and this is the most reprehesible, they hope that Council President Flaherty will “make note” of the contribution that helped put him in office when he needs to make a decision on their project. (I don’t mean to specifically point out City Council President Flaherty, he is simply the subject of the article and I am sure that if we look at any other candidate we will find nearly indentical patterns.) In the case of LVI Environmental Services I think it is the latter because it holds a $3.9 million contract for which they have yet to actually provide any service.

The problem is finding a balance. I firmly believe in the First Amendment and an individual’s right to speak. The Supreme Court, back in the 1970s, ruled that candidates could essentially spend an unchecked amount and that individual contributions were a form of speech that could not be regulated until they reached a certain point (that limit today is $2,000 and plus a limit on overall contributions). The court also recognized that the federal government was able to limit the individual contributions because it had a compelling interest in trying to stem corruption or the appearance of corruption. The battle for balance then is between an individual’s ability to express herself and society’s interest in fair, clean elections.

On the blogs lately there has been a lot of hype surrounding H.R. 4194 and other attempts to bring blogs into compliance with the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Refom Act (BCRA). 4194 seeks to close a loophole that allows blogs to become fronts for campaigns or individuals to circumvent the campaign finance laws by raising unlimited amounts of unregulated money and distributing it to other campaigns and candidates. I am torn on whether a measure like 4194 should pass because blogs would then be regulated by the government and the civic effects the blogs produced would be greatly threatened. Sites would feel less inclined to write about candidates and campaigns for fear they would run afoul of guidelines. If a site decided to endorese a particular candidate and encouraged others to support him or her or to contribute it is possible that such a blog would be violating the law. The chill on speech is not good. However, there is nothing stopping any large multi-national from setting up a fake blog and funneling tons of cash to a few pols they want to see re-elected. We certainly don’t want to be in the business of determining what is a “real” blog versus what is a “fake” blog.

In the end I am compelled to think that the reasoning underlying the decision in Buckley (the seminol case that ruled in favor of regulations on contributions), that the appearance of corruption or corruption itself, is justification enough for the government to seek some regulation of blogs. As bloggers and consumers of blogs we should hope for such regulations ourselves. In order for this medium to be effective it must be genuine. If companies and campaigns are allowed to create “front blogs” the disseminate bogus information, the effect of the geniune bloggers is diluted. If a mega-site like DailyKos wants to raise money for great candidates around the country, and I hope it does because of its vast audience, why should it not report the activity? Kos’ content is in no way compromised by complying with current regulations that require anyone to report contributions raised in excess of $200. The government will not shut him down for being overly Democratic, that is his right. I think that requiring blogs to report their contributions, and only contributions intended for use by candidates, reaches the appropriate balance between Kos’ right to say what he wants and our right as spectators and participants in elections, to know that they are being run fairly and hopefully someday, without the influence of money.

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There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.

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Russ Feingold for President!




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