The controversy over Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention – well, one of them anyway – is a reminder that much of the debate over campaign finance regulation has nothing to do with preventing corruption.
An employee of the Trump Organization, Meredith McIver, wrote the speech, leading many in the pro-regulation community to suspect foul play and prompting one group, the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, to file a complaint with the FEC. Corporations like the Trump Organization are prohibited from contributing cash or in-kind support to campaigns. (At this point, we don’t know whether a violation actually occurred. The Trump campaign says McIver volunteered on her own time.)
For the sake of argument, let’s assume there was a violation. The purpose of campaign finance laws is to prevent corruption. What is corrupt about a Trump Organization employee writing a speech for Melania Trump? This isn’t General Electric or Exxon-Mobil. This is the Trump Organization – owned and managed by Donald Trump and his children.
To worry that Donald Trump the politician will do the bidding of Donald Trump the businessman is nonsensical. It’s the same person. To say the Trump campaign is now indebted to McIver is even more ridiculous. Of all the reasons one may fear that a future Trump White House might favor the Trump Organization in its actions and policy, the need to payback an uncredited speechwriter has to be among the most absurd.
That “reformers” see this as scandalous is further indication that, to them, regulation is an end in itself. For the rest of us, whether a technical violation of the law occurred should be secondary to whether the conduct in question is corrupting. In our heavily regulated, overly complex campaign finance regime, the two are not interchangeable.
That a Trump Organization employee wrote a speech for Melania Trump or the Trump campaign may or may not be a violation of the law, but corrupting? Please.