Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, March 21, 2005

"Left Eight" Busted on McCain-Feingold

Say what you will about McCain-Feingold campaign reform, it did not reflect the will of the people. Frustrated by their inability to engage liberals in the issue, it fell to eight liberal foundations to raise the funds and twist the arms needed to bring about their vision, not the people's vision, of how campaigns should be run.

These are the same eight foundations mentioned in my earlier post about how liberal foundations are buying the media. In the case of McCain-Feingold, one of them, Carnegie, paid $132,000 to the liberal American Prospect magazine to put out a special issue on campaign reform. The magazine did not disclose the contribution. In the same timeframe, NPR received $1.2 million from the foundations to report on issues related to campaign funding and campaign reform. To my knowledge, it never did a story on the role of liberal foundation funding in campaign reform.

The lid on this entire situation was blown off by Sean Treglia, formerly with the Pew Charitable Trust, one of the Left Eight. In a story in today's WSJ Opinion Journal, John Fund lays out the Left Eight's campaign reform effort in equisite detail -- so detailed, in fact, that it should spell the end of McCain's career as a Republican. (h/t Real Clear Politics)

Some excerpts, but if you care about free elections, read the whole thing:
"The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot. That everywhere [Congress] looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform."

The truth was far different. Mr. Treglia admits that campaign-finance supporters had to try to hoodwink Congress because "they had lost legitimacy inside Washington because they didn't have a constituency that would punish Congress if they didn't vote for reform."

So instead, according to Mr. Treglia, liberal reform groups created a Potemkin movement. A study last month by the Political Money Line, a nonpartisan Web site dealing with campaign funding issues, found that of the $140 million spent to directly promote liberal campaign reform in the last decade, a full $123 million came from just eight liberal foundations. Many are the same foundations that provide much of the money for such left-wing groups as People for the American Way and the Earth Action Network. The "movement" behind campaign-finance reform resembled many corporate campaigns pushing legislation. It consisted largely of "Astroturf" rather than true "grass-roots" support.

But the results were spectacular. Not only did the effort succeed in bulldozing Congress and President Bush, but it might have played a role in persuading the Supreme Court, which had previously ruled against broad restrictions on political speech, to declare McCain-Feingold constitutional in 2003 on a 5-4 vote. "You will see that almost half the footnotes relied on by the Supreme Court in upholding the law are research funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts," Mr. Treglia boasted.

It is amazing what you can do with $123 million and a complete lack of timely media scrutiny.