Hope for Fat Cats
- The New York Times |
- Monday 28 July 2003
- The pathetic record of the
Federal Election Commission as the designated watchdog against the
ravages of big-money politics is only growing worse. Scott Thomas, the
stand-out commissioner on the F.E.C. who wants to clamp down on abuses,
is to be removed in a stunning decision by the leaders of his own
Democratic Party. Mr. Thomas, who is avid about the new McCain-Feingold
law's attempt to control the money sluiceway, is to be replaced by
Robert Lenhard, a lawyer for the labor movement who was part of the
effort to block that law.
- This wrongheaded nomination
by the Congressional Democratic leaders, Senator Tom Daschle and
Representative Nancy Pelosi, seems prompted by the resentment of party
forces seething over the fact that Democrats who fought more than
Republicans to pass McCain-Feingold also suffered more in the last
elections. The law banned the abuse of unlimited "soft money" donations
from unions, corporations and fat cats, and Bush Republicans have taken
a sizable lead in raising the alternative "hard money" donations.
- The Democrats' purge of Mr.
Thomas is a bouquet to Big Labor. Mr. Lenhard claims he will fight to
enforce the law on the six-member board, divided equally between the
two major parties. Yet there is no replacing Mr. Thomas, who complained
vehemently when his fellow commissioners first took it upon themselves
to create the soft-money loophole. This let their party leaders court
big spenders willing to fork over large donations in an effort to
secure inner-sanctum access in government.
- In a brazen nod to that
political piñata past, the F.E.C. has just tailored an exception
in the new soft-money ban for the forthcoming presidential conventions.
This is akin to sparing speakeasies during Prohibition. Happy days are
here again, for Republicans and Democrats alike. They can be unhampered
glad-handers in begging without limit to finance their anticlimactic
revels. The F.E.C. ruling came after the parties pleaded that hard
times were threatening the conventions' financing. We only wish voters
had the power to peer beyond the platform planks and boilerplate next
year into the hospitality suites in New York and Boston where the true
political influence will freely flow.