opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Susan Estrich
10 Feb 2016
Why Women Should Be for Hillary

There is one reason young women should support Hillary Clinton for president. It happens to be, in my … Read More.

5 Feb 2016
Donald Trump: Sore Loser

It was the shortest speech anyone can remember him giving. He was clearly in a state of disbelief. How could … Read More.

3 Feb 2016
Rubio's the One

You can pick your headline for Iowa: "Trump Didn't Win!" "Hillary Didn't Lose!" "Rubio's the One!" I prefer … Read More.

The Race to the Bottom


My friend Kathleen and I have had a running debate for decades now about whether it is possible to bring reform to the marriage of money and politics. I've been in favor of all kinds of regulations (including those that as a campaign manager I drove a truck through) limiting the role of money, and wealthy donors, in elections. Kathleen has argued from the beginning that "my" limits wouldn't work in practice and shouldn't survive constitutional scrutiny in theory, and that the best and only workable system is one that allows unlimited contributions but requires immediate disclosure.

And now we've both lost.

My failure is, of course, the most apparent. The regulations haven't worked. You could blame the Supreme Court for making it impossible (You can't have regulation if it isn't comprehensive, and you can't be comprehensive with all these Super PACs and independent committees operating outside the system.), or you could argue that with so much at stake, people will always find loopholes. In either event, it is clear that the so-called limits on campaign contributions only limit those who don't want to contribute even more. People are spending six and seven and now eight figures — eight figures! — to support their candidates.

This might be fine (or at least better than total failure) if we had full disclosure of who was spending what on whom. We don't.

Today's news accounts of record spending are based in part on the decision by Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson to contribute some $10 million to a Mitt Romney Super PAC, bringing their contributions to date to a total of $35 million in this presidential race. That's a lot of money. But at least the Adelsons are upfront about what they are doing.

In fact, there are other groups collecting money out there, in just as large chunks, who are not revealing who is giving it to them. No disclosure. Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion in the landmark Citizens United case (which turned on the spigot of unlimited corporate cash) went on and on about the value of disclosure — but guess what.

This campaign season, you can give millions to an organization like American Crossroads (a.k.a. Karl Rove's group) and remain anonymous.

No accountability. No disclosure. And therefore, no ability to find out exactly what anyone is getting for their money.

Make no mistake: Published or not, candidates know who's helping them, particularly when it gets to seven or eight figures.

Forty years after the infamous 1972 election, the election in which cash changed hands in exchange for favorable treatment by regulators, the election that spurred reform of our campaign finance system, we have returned to where we were — but with many more zeros, greater sophistication and no guarantee of disclosure. And whoever wins this election probably won't change a system that worked for him or her, either at the presidential or congressional level.

Decades ago, when I first thought about running for office, what turned me off was the amount of time my friends who were candidates had to spend raising money. Politics, I understood, is not for people who like policy, but for people who excel at selling: cars, encyclopedias, themselves...

In the years since, a bad system has gotten worse than I ever could have imagined. It's not just that the numbers have sprouted zeros, but that we've lost all vestiges of post-Watergate shame. Nothing embarrasses anyone.

Back in the 1988, when I explained the rules (antiquated now) about raising soft money and creating a party-based Victory Fund that could accept unlimited contributions, Michael Dukakis looked at me aghast (could I possibly be right?) and said he simply wouldn't be comfortable with someone donating more than $250,000. He understood, as any honest pol will admit, that when someone is giving you that kind of money, how could your judgment not be affected?

Today, $250,000 is kid stuff.

And here's the worst part. From all I know, the Adelsons care deeply about public policy issues, including support for the state of Israel. They have so much money that they don't really need anything in exchange. But for many of those giving, a six-, seven- or eight-figure contribution is peanuts compared to the benefits they stand to reap if their favored candidate is elected.

The best government money can buy. And we don't even know who is doing the buying.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



4 Comments | Post Comment
I know who's buying the Obama Administration! It's George Soros!!! And it's not the "best government money can buy"!!
Comment: #1
Posted by: Early
Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:51 AM
This piece by Ostrich [ she clearly has her head stuck up some dark place] is a joke right ?
" The best govenment that money can buy. And we don't even know who is doing the buying" LOL !
Notwithstanding that Early is absolutely correct, the boy barack and his whole crooked corrupt admin has been bought and paid for not only by Sorros and the Islamists in league with the progressives and communists but also by the crony fundraisers, bundlers, big doners, trade unions, boy cronies, and wall street principally Goldman Sachs. It will take years to uncover the depth to which we the taxpayers have been sold out by the boy's crime inc. A few examples (1) obama care, deals with big pharma, hundreds of waivers to the unions, and corporations with strong Democratic party connections, think Nancy Pelosi. (2) green energy and the billions repaid to the obama bundlers and backers, think Solyndra et al (3) the bail out billions to GM all done to secure the pensions of the worthless UAW members (4) the Justice Department has been bought and paid for and (5) the attempted buying of Supreme Court decisions by the appointment of the two liberal imbeciles Kagan and Sotoymeyor.
Never before and never again will the US Government been so thoroughly bought and extensively used for the benefit of political cronies and indeed the boy's enemy of America friends.
Sober up Estrich !
Comment: #2
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Jun 15, 2012 10:04 AM
PS Forgot to mention that the boy has also been bought by La Raza and other advocates of illigal immigration. it is now absolutekly clear willing to sacrifice the jobs for up to a million Americans for the sake of illegals and their votes. Wake up America ! Get this Constitution destroying traitorous pos out of office asap or there will be no America.
Comment: #3
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Jun 15, 2012 5:06 PM
The race to the bottom started when politicians got the idea they could purchase votes from blocks of people if they offered them money or other perks. Welfare junkies get cash. The bltg community (which is comprised of just 2.8% of the US population) get to tell the other 97% of us what moral values we are allowed to keep and they get to call their relationships "marriages". The latino community get amnesty. The tree huggers get regulations stifling commerce. You complain of those who give to political campaigns but no where in your article do you mention the multi-millions given to progressive/socialist activities by Soros or the multi-millions given by socialist labor unions. I am sure there are other progressive donators. Kind of a one sided argumant, isn't it? Ah well....that is the norm from progressive activist paid commentators for the progressive party. Just how deep into my wallet does YOUR democracy allow?
Comment: #4
Posted by: Fred Smith
Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:07 PM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Susan Estrich
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Veronique de RugyUpdated 11 Feb 2016
Connie Schultz icon
Connie SchultzUpdated 11 Feb 2016
Matt Towery
Matt ToweryUpdated 11 Feb 2016

7 Mar 2012 Ten Questions for Super Tuesday

16 Dec 2010 Birthdays

5 Jun 2015 The Campaign in the Courts