Friday, April 2, 2004

To the mountain of flip-flops that Sen. John Kerry has built since he began running for president, add his position on soft money. During the debate on the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill, which passed the Senate three years ago yesterday with overwhelming Democratic support, Mr. Kerry asserted: “[T]he McCain-Feingold goal and objective, which I support, is to eliminate altogether the capacity of soft money to play the role that it does in our politics.” Now that Mr. Kerry’s presidential campaign has become the primary beneficiary of a $300 million soft-money campaign organized by liberal interest groups and DNC Executive Committee member Harold Ickes, Mr. Kerry has changed his opinion. Moreover, despite his insistence that there is no co-ordination between his campaign and Mr. Ickes’ soft-money behemoth, the Media Fund (which plans to spend $140 million in soft money on ads), it’s worth noting that Mr. Kerry’s former campaign manager, Jim Jordan, now serves as the spokesman for the Media Fund.

Mr. Kerry, of course, is not alone. Even by the elastic standards of politics, virtually the entire Democratic Party apparatus has exhibited an astonishing degree of hypocrisy over soft money. A recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) report about the fund-raising activities of the two major parties’ national, Senate and House campaign committees explains why Democrats feel compelled to retain their addiction to soft money.

Let’s compare 2003, the first year that McCain-Feingold prohibited national parties from raising soft money, with 1999, which was the last non-election year preceding a presidential election. The three Democratic Party campaign committees raised $110 million in 1999, half of which was soft money. The same year Republican Party committees raised $155 million, nearly two-thirds of which was regulated, limited hard money. In 2003, Democrats raised $95 million in hard money, $15 million less than their 1999 hard-and-soft total. Republicans raised $183 million in hard money in 2003, almost 20 percent more than their hard-and-soft total for 1999. Moreover, FEC data reveal that Republicans raised $79 million in individual small-donor (less than $200) contributions, 84 percent (or $36 million) more than Democrats raised from small donors.

The Republican hard-money advantage significantly expanded in January and February. The Republican National Committee raised $48 million during the first two months of 2004, four times what the DNC raised. Collecting nearly $10 million during the same two months, the GOP Senate campaign committee more than doubled the take of its Democratic counterpart. And the Republican House campaign committee’s $16 million effort for January and February was nearly five times what the Democratic House committee raised.

Unable to compete in the hard-money arena, Mr. Kerry and his fellow hypocritical Democrats, assisted by liberal interest groups, have once again become addicted to soft money.

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