Self-Funding In An Age Of BCRA

Late last night, Mitt Romney’s campaign released its fourth-quarter funding figures, and as everyone expected, Romney significantly self-funded. He raised $9 million, which stacks up well against the other Republicans, but added twice as much into the kitty from his own pocket. The Politico wonders how much he’s self-funding in January:

Mitt Romney contributed $18 million of his own money to his campaign in the fourth quarter, more than he had put in the first three quarters combined.
Romney also raised $9 million during the quarter and wound up with $2.43 million on hand. …
What is unknown is just how much Romney put in and spent during the month of January. Given the campaign’s heavy TV spending, his total personal contribution is likely now at $40 million or above.
John McCain raised $6.8 million for the quarter and was left with 2.9 million on hand at the end of December. But, in a reminder of his financial woes last year, he also had to take out a line of credit of $3 million and still carried a debt of $4.5 million.

This release occasioned an e-mail missive from Team McCain calling this “alarming”, and that he was “wasting his fortune”. Perhaps, but it is his fortune to waste — and given his track record, he’s probably not going to have much problem recovering it if he returns to the private sector now or a few years in the future. Whether a run for the Presidency is a “waste” really is Romney’s call, and no one else’s. After all, it’s his money.
It does point up a problem with all of the campaign-finance reform nonsense that Congress has imposed on the process. Money finds its way into the process no matter how many artificial barriers get imposed and artificial categories created for it. Americans express their support by their pocketbook — and they turn to other mechanisms when thwarted in efforts to directly support candidates. That accounts for the rise of 527s and their mostly-negative impact on national politics.
The BCRA and its predecessor acts have amplified the phenomenon of self-funders. They have always been around, but never quite like today. This year’s Congressional races will feature several of them in both parties, people who have to self-fund because of the advantages the BCRA gives to incumbents. Ned Lamont was the biggest example of this in 2006, someone selected to run against Joe Lieberman in the primary mostly for his ability to pay for the campaign himself.
And self-funders have one advantage that BCRA supporters originally espoused: they don’t owe lobbyists favors when they win. Having relied mainly on his own money, Romney can argue (and has) that anyone else’s contributions pale in comparison to those from his own family, and therefore no one holds IOUs in his administration. It actually shakes the lobbysists from influence, which is supposedly the entire point of the BCRA and other legislation like it.
Now the author of the BCRA wants to complain about running against a candidate who self-funds. John McCain can’t have it both ways. If he dislikes the wealthy who have to spend their own money to challenge the power system, then get rid of the Byzantine mess that his McCain-Feingold bill has created — and its attendant insults to the First Amendment. That’s what is truly “alarming” in politics.

One thought on “Self-Funding In An Age Of BCRA”

  1. His Own Petard?

    When John McCain and George W. Bush were vying for their party’s nomination, I was a McCain fan. How could a person not be impressed by the man who refused to leave Vietnam’s prison camp to stand by his men?

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