March 18, 2005

Bad Pew Foundation

At last, a real scandal! Er, maybe. It seems that two years ago, the Pew Foundation gave a bit of money—oh okay, a lot of money—to a bunch of other groups so that they would all advocate campaign finance reform. Dirty funding to promote a clean-funding idea! Ha ha! Sounds like hypocrisy, right? Well, no. Campaign finance reform, of course, has always been about ending the influence of money on policymaking and, more precisely, on politician-making. Not ending the influence of money on opinion-making. Pew was doing the latter, not the former. Still, there's obviously a sordid quality to all of this, in that liberals advocating "money out of politics" would quite clearly not be very happy if a bunch of conservative groups shelled out multimillions to spread certain views among the general public. By which, of course, I mean those liberals aren't very happy when that sort of thing happens right now.

So... it's icky. But none of this changes the arguments about the merits of campaign finance reform. To use a favorite analogy, Social Security phase-out would still be a bad idea even if all the mutual fund managers on earth were against it. But whatever. And for what it's worth, I think McCain-Feingold was a bad idea anyway; I'd much prefer more and better public financing for otherwise marginalized candidates and views. Or give all voters $100 or so to spend on whatever candidate they please. Boost the supply side, as they say. And, you know, if Pew had bothered to consult me in the first place, then they could've spent all the money they wanted promoting these views and obviously wouldn't be looking like big hypocrites right now. Oh well, lesson learned.

UPDATE: Okay, okay. One of the problems with not being a very good writer (and trying to write very quickly while running out the door late for a movie) is that you end up not being clear. This post was meant to have a bit of that tongue-in-cheek quality we all know and love (i.e. "At last, a real scandal!") but looking over it, I sounded a lot more outraged than I really am. As Nathan Newman says, the money here just isn't that significant compared to the dollars sloshing around right-wing causes (horrors! Pew paid the American Prospect a whopping $132,000 to write about the issue!). Pew could've been more upfront about who it was funding, I think, if only because transparency seems like a good thing on principle, but other than that, yeah...
-- Brad Plumer 12:25 AM || ||