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February 27, 2004
Edwards Refuses to Release Contributor List

At least John Kerry released the names and contribution levels of his biggest fundraisers; John Edwards refuses to do so, making the Los Angeles Times question where he gets his money:

A campaign finance watchdog group on Thursday called on North Carolina Sen. John Edwards to release the names of his top presidential fundraisers before Super Tuesday a request the Edwards campaign said it would decline. ... "We're not releasing any names. That's our policy," said Edwards' campaign spokesperson Kim Rubey.

Edwards' reluctance to disclose his contributor list stands in stark contrast to bot Kerry and President Bush, who have released the names and contribution levels of all those who have raised more than $50,000 for their campaigns. Early on, the Edwards campaign was rumored to be existing on a higher percentage of maxed-out contributors -- those who donated $2,000 dollars -- than any other candidate. Dean, for instance, averaged less than $100 per contributor. It indicated to some analysts that money from lobbyists and trial lawyers may have comprised the bulk of Edwards' contributions, but until Edwards releases the records, no one will know for sure. Certainly his reluctance speaks volumes.

It also demonstrates that we have gone too far in the wrong direction for campaign finance reform. Despite all of the well-meaning efforts to "get the money out of politics", money plays a more important role than ever, and the new campaign-finance legislation forces it underground in a variety of dodges. The result is that voters can't clearly know from where candidates got their money. It's hypocritical and it's dangerous.

Instead, we should take the labels off of all the different kinds of money there are in the political system -- "soft", "hard", "PAC", "bundled" -- and go back to calling it money. Take the limits off, but require every candidate to list the name and money of every single contribution made to a campaign. Have that data readily available on the Internet for everyone to see. As my friends at SCSU Scholars say, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 27, 2004 6:14 AM

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