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'Reform' Hypocrisy

Why do campaign-finance "reform" advocates hate civil dialogue so? Those who follow these matters might remember how Sen. John McCain famously snarled at FEC Commissioner Brad Smith (a dogged "reform" opponent) and refused to shake his hand at a public hearing. Well, here's another bit of "reformer" pleasantness for the ages.

Bob Bauer -- noted progressive campaign-finance attorney and campaign-finance-regulation skeptic -- co-wrote an op-ed last week for the New York Times, expressing, well, skepticism about campaign-finance regulation. Bauer's piece was thoughtful, well-reasoned and engaged in no ad hominem attacks against reformers.

The response came in the Sunday NYT letters section: a ludicrous bit of name-calling and hyperbole from Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 and Trevor Potter of the Campaign Legal Center.

Here's a sample:

Mr. Baran and Mr. Bauer...have facilitated efforts by their clients to undermine the campaign finance laws, and then opposed efforts in Congress to deal with the resulting scandals. ...It is no surprise that these lawyers representing different political parties tell us they meet periodically for cozy lunches to discuss their mutual disdain for the campaign finance laws.

On his blog today, Bauer issues an appropriate -- and, let me say, scorching -- response, calling the "reformers" on their refusal to engage in civilized debate and their reliance on a Black Hat / White Hat narrative to make up for their utter lack of rigor or reason:

Wertheimer and Potter are counting, once again, on the Grand Reform Narrative to ease their way past a close examination of the reform record. This is a Narrative that slights argument and appeals with great success to the instinctive acceptance, in the press and among some members of the public, that politics is corrupt; that reformers are laboring valiantly in the public interest to clean it up; and that they must contend always with tireless resistance from the beneficiaries of the corrupt order. It is a labor-saving argument: it summons forth the fear of demons and excuses any attention to reasoned exposition. "Reform" is good: how could it not be, since it is "reform"?

Bauer goes even further in exposing the sleaze and hypocrisy these "reform" groups perpetrate. While they've tried to ruin Bauer's legal practice for having the audacity to publicly question the "reform" program, they go merrily about finding ways to help Sen. McCain solicit soft money without running afoul of his own laws.

(Those not familiar with McCain's antics as relates to the Reform Institute should familiarize themselves. The group, which can accept soft money, is essentially an appendage of the McCain operation -- hiring his staffers between campaigns and working toward his greater glory generally. He's, not surprisingly, been known to do favors for corporations and individuals who donate to it. I wrote up the scandal in The Post here.)

Anyway, it's nice to see once again that those who support "reform" can only operate from a commitment to sweetness and light, while those who oppose it are ravenous beasts, feasting on the flesh of our dying democracy. Campaign-finance regulation has sure brought us a more civilized public square.