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Monday, August 23, 2004

George W. Bush, Campaign Finance Reform Champion

Bush's remarks today are yet again hard for me to fathom. Press on the Swift Boat attack ads, Bush kept saying he opposes all independent advertising by 527 groups.

I'm denouncing all the stuff being on TV of the 527s. That's what I've said. I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process. And I asked Senator Kerry to join me in getting rid of all that kind of soft money, not only on TV, but used for other purposes, as well. I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill. I thought we were going to, once and for all, get rid of a system where people could just pour tons of money in and not be held to account for the advertising. And so I'm disappointed with all those kinds of ads.

I have several questions. First, how could Bush and Kerry agree to get rid of all 527 expenditures? Isn't the point that these are independent groups, not coordinating with the presidential campaigns? How then could the two candidates acting in concert eradicate them? Second, if Bush is so convinced that 527s are "bad for the process" why doesn't he take further action to try to constrain them? We've known for several months now that the FEC was interpreting McCain-Feingold in such a way that allowed 527s plenty of latitude. During those months, what has Bush actually done to propose new legislation or push the FEC to change its previous decisions? Obviously, just "speaking out against them," hasn't had much effect thus far.

Could the rollout of Bush's new anti-527 talking point really be nothing more than a way for the president to deflect questions about the Swift Boat ads? Just maybe? (And wasn't his previous anti-527 stuff really motivated by the fact that Republicans want to keep their advantage in hard money fundraising, without letting the Democrats somewhat level the playing field with the soft money? OK, I have a pretty good idea on the last few.)