Boasting of his participation in the 1876 Hamburg Massacre, in which seven Black men were murdered by a mob of white southerners, Benjamin Tillman pursued dominance in South Carolina’s political arena. Serving as governor in 1890 he bemoaned the fact that Blacks still resided in South Carolina. “…we have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate the last one of them. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.” So naturally when he ran for the US Senate he felt most comfortable in the Democrat Party and became the “noble” pioneer of campaign finance reform, setting a “moral” standard future “reformers” could emulate. Tillman’s Magnus Opus was the Tillman Act, which barred political contributions from corporations. Apparently corporation didn’t measure up to Tillman’s lofty moral standards.
In 1974 Democrats were once again outraged at such egregious campaign finance abuses as W. Clement Stone’s donation of $2 million to Richard Nixon, which helped defeat Democrat challenger, George McGovern. It was Stone’s money, and perfectly legal, but since it helped defeat a Democrat, the Democrat controlled Congress saw it as an obvious example of “corruption” and “financial abuse”. Being Democrats, though, they weren’t all that bright and made the mistake of believing their own hype. Assuming their contributor base was actually “the people” rather that “the rich” they amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to cap individual donations at $5,000. By the time they realize that Republicans actually had more grassroots contributions, it was too late. They’d promoted donation caps to the point that they couldn’t take it back. But like all good Democrats, they knew that rules were for suckers who couldn’t find the loopholes.
First the Supreme Court ruled that the caps couldn’t be applied to what the candidate himself could donate, so the rich politicians breathed a sigh of relief, and the average Joes aspiring for political office were cut off at the knees. The world was once again safe from all those average Joes.
Democrats quickly found other loopholes. Funding political parties and other organizations was left fairly open, especially if the money was used specifically for “voter registration”. So an organization that worked to register voters only in heavily Democrat parts of the city was declared “non-partisan” and could receive unlimited funding. Also, every time ordinary people found a way of reaching other voters, political insiders led by Democrats would slam the doors on their efforts. The 90s found people pooling their money to run commercials addressing issues they were concerned about. In 2002 McCain-Feingold stopped that “horrible abuse”. Can you imagine the gall of some people thinking they can just simply tell other people what they think. I mean where do they think this is, America?
In 2004 we saw billionaire George Soros flood the campaign season with $15 million, while the Democrat party smiled on approvingly. (By the way, W. Clement Stone’s $2 million in 1972 would have been $9 million in 2004 dollars, but somehow “corrupt” while Soros’s $15 million wasn’t.) The FEC eventually, grudgingly fined Soros funded MoveOn.org a paltry $150,000 while fining the [gasp] Average Joe funded Swift Vets for Truth almost twice as much for allegedly doing the exact same thing. What exactly it was they did was never really explained all that clearly, mainly because it’s doubtful the FEC itself actually understands McCain-Feingold. It’s doubtful McCain or Feingold even understand McCain-Feingold. But any government agency worth its salt has to do something to appear to justify its budget. So MoveOn.org was fined $150,000 for an alleged $5 million campaign violation. I bet their wrists are still stinging.