Will Kerry-Edwards Spurn Public Funding?
Klaus Marre of The Hill writes an fascinating article today about the internal debate within the Kerry campaign as to whether or not they should even opt to go the public funding route, rife, as it is, with pitfalls and handicaps, especially when up against a well funded and corporate friendly incumbent:
"Some Democratic strategists and fundraisers say Sen. John Kerry should seriously consider opting out of public funding in his bid to defeat President Bush this fall.
"They maintain that Kerry's record fundraising efforts in the Democratic presidential primary show that the senator can reap more money through private contributions than through what the government would provide the campaign."
Add into the mix the fact that John Edwards, a shot of adrenaline to the moribund campaign, the favorite of the urban elites, is also a heavy duty fund raiser with trial lawyers and Hollywood types.
"Until now, it has been assumed that both Kerry and Bush would take the $75 million in public funds after they accept their respective nominations. But this places Kerry, who will be nominated five weeks prior to President Bush, at a significant disadvantage. He has to stretch his money for 14 weeks, an average of about $5 million per week, compared to Bush, who has nine weeks, an average of more than $8 million, to spend his public money."
A brilliant point. Considering the placement of the nomination acceptances, it is bad strategy to remain on "equal" footing with the Republicans; it's not their fault if they take advantage by running negative ads in high end markets that the Dems couldn't afford to counter -- it's just politics. And, remember, the sitting Vice President, Al Gore ran out of money against his challenger, GW Bush, leaving his spread eagle against attack ads at the end of 2000.
"This and Kerry's aggressive fundraising operation is leading some of his most prolific fundraisers and Democratic strategists to suggest that Kerry should take the historic step of forgoing public funds and keep raising money all the way to the Nov. 2 election.
"Since effectively clinching the Democratic nomination, Kerry has raised more than $30 million per month and a total of more than $180 million. That would easily put him on pace to raise more than $75 million until the election, especially because those Democratic donors who have given the maximum of $2,000 for his primary could contribute the same amount again. He has also raised an average of more than $10 million a month online, meaning it will take less administrative effort to bring
in these donations.
"In addition, Kerry would be allowed to transfer any remaining funds from the primary into his general-election campaign war chest. His last Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing showed that he had $27.7 million cash on hand while he was spending and raising money at about the same rate. Kerry would be precluded from transferring money to or raising it for his general-election campaign if he accepted public funds, but he could transfer it to the Democratic National Committee (DNC)."
We have to realize, though, before we get lost midway through life's journey in the thicket of money lust, that this type of calculation and, for Democrats, salivation, over the prospect of campaign funding and cold hard cheddar -- soft and hard -- is a very, very sad development. The Democrats have gone from being an electorate demanding campaign finance reform to one obsessed with behaving exactly like their enemies, the Republicans. This only proves what social scientists like to call The Iron law of Emulation, "Organizations in conflict tend to emulate one another." (For further reference, compare and contrast the FBI's Cointelpro counter intelligence program to silence internal political dissidents, at the height of the Cold War competition, in the 1960s, with the KGB, who were, to be sure, more openly hostile, but still, strikingly similar). But how did we get off on that particular tangent?
"Should Kerry decide to opt out, eclipsing $75 million should not be a problem, according to some of his 'Vice Chairs,' individuals who raised more than $100,000 for the campaign.
"Vice Chair and lobbyist Manuel Ortiz said Kerry's camp should 'take a really hard look at [opting out].' He said Kerry's decision to opt out of public funding for the primary was one of the best the campaign has made.
"At a time when he was running far behind former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Kerry decided to forgo matching funds in order not to be tied to a $45 million primary spending limit. Had he not opted out, Kerry would be lagging $170 million behind Bush in primary funds."
True, this was probably the bold decision which factored seriously into Iowa voters calculation of a Kerry vote after Gephardt and Dean imploded; punching each other out.
"Ortiz said he would support Kerry's opting out, especially because donors who have maxed out in the primary would be allowed to give money again.
"Asked about the possibility of keeping up the fundraising pace if Kerry opts out, John Coale, a Vice Chair and Washington, D.C., attorney, said: 'If he wants us to do it, we'll do it,' adding that it is just a matter of 'getting the list of $2,000 donors and getting on the phone again.'"
Can anyone say: Hollywood? Can anyone say Arianna Huffington fundraiser? Can anyone say Susan and Alan Patricof? Barbara Streisand? John Bon Jovi? P Diddy and Russell Simmons? Oh, it's on like Gray Poupon!
"Vice Chair Robert Clifford, an Illinois lawyer, said the Kerry campaign should consider all options but pointed out that not accepting taxpayer funds would 'siphon money' from other Democratic candidates and the DNC. 'Hard dollars are hard to come by,' he said, and a decision to opt out could have a 'downward impact' on the ticket. 'We might be putting too many eggs in one basket,' Clifford said."
"Tony Coelho, former campaign chairman for Vice President Al Gore, said that there are 'legitimate reasons' not to take public funds and that Kerry would eclipse $75 million if he continued raising funds, but added that there could be a 'big negative' politically as 'pro-[Ralph] Nader people would seize on it.'"
Eminently logical and valid. This would be a Christmas present to that fucker, Ralph Nader -- a validation that there is no difference between the two parties ... hey, maybe ... he ... has ... a point?
"Nader has said that the two major parties are too similar and beholden to corporate interests. Opting out and taking millions of additional campaign contributions, even if a lot of the money would come from small online donors, could fuel those type of attacks.
"Coelho said Nader's criticisms on this issue could especially come into play in states such as New Hampshire and Florida, where Nader collected more votes in 2000 than Bush's margin of victory over Gore."
"Others said that if Kerry would opt out, so could Bush and his massive fundraising machine. A Democratic official said, 'People forget that every action has an equal or more powerful reaction. Basic high-school chemistry. If Kerry opted out, why wouldn't Bush?'"
Okay, I was with you there along for the ride, Tony, until you fucked up and had to pretend that you knew science as well as politics on 'Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,' which is decidedly not chemistry, O Master of the Universe, but physics, specifically, Newton's Third Law of Motion. But I get the point.
"Coelho said the Kerry campaign, prior to making its decision on whether to opt out, should put pressure on Bush to find out if he plans to forgo public funding. The Bush campaign has said it would accept public funding."
A fine idea. You won me back, Tony.
"In May, the Kerry campaign hinted that he might delay the date on which he would accept the Democratic nomination in order to keep raising money. He backed away from that plan quickly. At the time, the campaign said it was looking into other options to make up for having to stretch its general-election funds for an additional five weeks.
"Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Clinton and now a partner with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, also said that Kerry should consider all options but needs 'a public commitment' from Bush regarding the president's intentions or otherwise should be 'very skeptical.'
"Scott Stanzel, a Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman, said a public pledge is not needed because the campaign has maintained all along that it will accept public funding and 'nothing has changed.'"
Now this is interesting. So, the President will have $75 million after he accepts the nod, leaving Kerry the option to forgo the funding and become a Republican on campaign finance, or, should he accept the same deal, be handicapped.
"The Kerry campaign declined to comment for this article."
I'm sure that's because they are bewildered by the prospects before them.
The game's afoot.