We’re not corrupted by contributions because we’re the good guys…

Earlier today I ran across this article in the Chicago Tribune about some fussing over the Reform Institute, Senator McCain, disclosure, and some of the Institute’s contributors.

A few key passages from the article…

Allies of Sen. John McCain opened a Washington think tank in 2001 to promote transparency and accountability in government…

For the next seven years, the non-profit Reform Institute churned out position papers and offered expert testimony on campaign finance reform, the need for bipartisanship and other issues, frequently supporting McCain’s positions.

But behind the scenes, the institute’s practices have at times arguably been at odds with its reformist message, and with McCain’s political identity as an enemy of special interests. In fact, the Reform Institute has stretched and may have broken rules governing charitable organizations…

In 2003 and 2004, a telecommunications company with business before the McCain-led Senate Commerce Committee contributed a total of $200,000 to the institute. The contributions were solicited by Rick Davis, a veteran Washington lobbyist who was president of the institute from 2003 through 2005 and who is now McCain’s campaign manager.

Apparently miffed that anyone might conclude large, unregulated contributions to an organization closely affiliated with a politician could possibly influence that politician, a member of the Reform Institute’s Board of Directors has passed along to Professor Rick Hasen a letter to the editor that the Tribune declined to publish. Below is my modestly edited version of that letter (click here for the full original text).

To the Editor of the Chicago Tribune:

I have been proud to be involved with the Reform Institute since its inception, and I am dismayed by the baseless allegations leveled against the Institute in the Tribune’s June 17 article…

The Reform Institute is [an important organization doing good work. How dare you accuse us of any impropriety? Everyone knows only contributions to *bad* groups and politicians are corrupting].

… The Institute was proud to have the support of Senator John McCain as it played a key role [by spending money to support efforts] enacting landmark campaign finance reform legislation [*good* legislation, easily identifiable as legislation supported by Sen. McCain and those who agree with him – as opposed to *bad* legislation, which is anything Sen. McCain opposes and everyone knows is only favored by special interests]…

The article [dares to insinuate a link between large unregulated contributions and the decisions of an elected member of Congress. Where on earth do you get an idea like this? Oh wait, I get it now…]

The article is riddled with inaccuracies and does disservice to an organization doing substantive policy work [as opposed to organizations doing insubstantive policy work, such as by opposing "reformers" and other good people].

Charles E.M. Kolb
Member, Reform Institute Board of Directors

 

There is an old saying, "Live by the sword, die by the sword." In this case, I suppose that can be modified to "Live by the silly argument, get embarrassed by the silly argument."

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