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Government & Politics

Breaking: Presidential Candidates Raise Money

The Washington Post is shocked -- shocked -- that presidential candidates raise money.

Michael Swartz · Apr. 3, 2015

As of Tuesday, we will be 83 weeks away from the 2016 presidential election, with the first primary votes still a long way off. While Senator Ted Cruz was the first to make his presidential candidacy official, he won’t be the last: Indications are as many as 15 to 20 serious aspirants will emerge by mid-summer.

But before partisans from both parties begin the process by gathering around the frozen tundra of Iowa in January, it’s likely the field will contract over the latter half of the year as the bottom-feeders find the money’s not there to continue their run. To avoid this fate, many would-be occupants of the Oval Office from both parties have set up SuperPACs (political action committees) and other financial arrangements to collect donations on their behalf. It’s a practice that has irritated the editorial board of The Washington Post, driving them to deliver a stinging rebuke to Jeb Bush and others for their efforts so far.

Not that the Post even alleges law-breaking. Indeed, the candidates are following the law. The Post just doesn’t like it.

The Post didn’t create this “mocking the law” story from thin air, though. The editorial board’s inspiration was the first in what promises to be a series of complaints about the fundraising practices of specific candidates from a pair of organizations advocating for even tighter controls on campaign finance: the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Democracy 21. The four initial complaints by the groups focused on Republican front-runners Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, as well as 2012 GOP runner-up Rick Santorum.

To promote a fig leaf of bipartisanship, the groups also singled out Martin O'Malley, who is emerging as a top challenger to Hillary Clinton. The contention by the group is that these candidates are “testing the waters” without a formal declaration of doing so as required by the Federal Elections Commission.

On the other hand, while the CLC and Democracy 21 give Hillary Clinton a clean bill of health, another watchdog group makes the claim that she’s also done campaign activities before a formal announcement. The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) alleges Hillary Clinton and the “Ready for Hillary” advocacy group have conducted “activities [that] have extended beyond merely testing the waters to determine whether a candidacy for president is feasible,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Yet inquiries about campaign finance pale in comparison to Hillary’s dealings (financial and otherwise) with other leaders during her tenure as secretary of state. There are many questions about the financial support from foreign governments given to the Clinton Foundation during that time, and perhaps most of those questions will remain unanswered thanks to Hillary’s decision to wipe her email server clean.

It seems rather curious that suspicion about her motives isn’t as forthcoming from the same media so quickly tut-tutting about alleged campaign finance transgressions by two of the leading GOP contenders. (We kid. That’s not curious at all!)

While the Democrat and Republican presidential contenders in the general election may well raise and spend over $1 billion apiece trying to become our 45th president – and oh what a mess he or she will inherit – that sum pales in comparison to our annual federal spending. (All those campaign dollars would run the federal government only for a few hours – a sobering thought.)

The Washington Post may be shocked – shocked – that presidential candidates are raising money and taking the path of least resistance to do so, but it’s hardly surprising to the rest of us that candidates are using every legal avenue available for fundraising. If onerous campaign-finance law puts severe restrictions on candidates once they announce, why not delay announcing?

We’re not naive enough to believe that high-dollar donors, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, are donating for simple altruistic reasons. But Americans should be mindful that following the Constitution could save us all a lot of money in the long run. In other words, the reason politicians spend so much to get elected is because they can spend so much once they are elected – much of it unconstitutional. If there’s no huge pot of federal largesse to divvy up between special interests, the money heretofore used to buy politicians is likely to instead go to what we would consider to be more productive pursuits.

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