“Reform” word games

TO:                Members of the U.S. House of Representatives

FROM:            Mary G. Wilson, President

RE:                Secret Campaign Contributions

That’s the header of a letter sent by the League of Women Voters to the House of Representatives.  So what are the so-called "secret campaign contributions" they’re talking about?  Are contributions going unreported?  

No. The LWV is talking about ordinary contribution bundling.  Bundling disclosure has been one of the "reform" community’s pet issues recently.  For those who aren’t familiar with bundling, it’s nothing more sinister than arranging for folks to make perfectly legal contributions to political candidates.  These aren’t "secret campaign contributions"; they’re disclosed according to the same rules as any other political contribution.  At worst it’s "secret asking people to make perfectly legal campaign contributions." 

What LWV really wants is disclosure of the "asking," specifically when the person doing the asking is a lobbyist.  But LWV has chosen to obscure the issue with word games.  This is an unfortunate tendency among "reformers," who similarly refer to grassroots lobbying as "Astroturf" and express advocacy as "magic words."  These word games are designed to shortcut debate–who in their right mind could favor a "magic words test?"–rather than tackling the difficult consitutional and policy questions head-on.

Whether or not bundling disclosure for lobbyists is a good idea, debate on the subject should focus on the merits.  When "reformers" instead choose to play word games, it is not only regretable, but raises questions about their ability to defend the substance of their arguments.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.