Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Hyman Principle? No Principles!

Is Mark Hyman a man of principle? Hardly. In fact, he’s a liar.

his most recent commentary, Hyman tries to don the mantle of a man of disinterested conviction, but it just doesn’t fit.

Hyman crafts his editorial as a “strange bedfellows” piece, noting that he and America Coming Together, a progressive 527 group, are both against a Senate bill that would limit the ability of such organizations to spend unlimited money on campaign ads before elections. The difference, according to Hyman, is that while ACT’s position is based on wanting to “stay in business,” he opposes it “on principle.”

Not only does Hyman not make it clear what “business” ACT is trying to stay in, but he counts on viewers not knowing that Sinclair Broadcasting Incorporated was in bed with one of the biggest 527s of the 2004 election: Swift Boat Veterans for “Truth” [sic]. Despite Hyman’s public comments to the contrary at the time, the Swifties
were part of the same organization as the group peddling the propaganda piece “Stolen Honor,” which Sinclair wanted to air in its entirety as a “news” segment (and which it did air in a slightly altered form after massive public protest against Sinclair).

Principle indeed.

Hyman goes on to restate his objection to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation (or, as he unfailingly calls it, the “infamous McCain-Feingold law”). In a completely duplicitous assertion, Hyman claims that in a system where incumbents have huge advantages, “PACs and political committees are often the great equalizers.”

That is utter nonsense, and the Infamous Hyman knows it. In fact PACs give overwhelmingly to incumbents.
Thomas Patterson, the Bradlee Professor of Government & the Press at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, notes that:

Today's House incumbents have created a lock on the offices they hold. When the
campaign finance laws were changed during the 1970s in reaction to Watergate,
PACs suddenly sprouted, increasing in number from 600 to 4,000 within a decade.
This new source of money turned out to be a bonanza for incumbents. PACs are
reluctant to oppose politicians who are already in power. Today, upwards of 85
percent of PAC money ends up in the pockets of incumbents, who also operate
year-around reelection campaigns at taxpayer expense. When members of Congress
in the 1960s voted to greatly enlarge their personal staffs, they argued that
the additional personnel were needed in order to offset the executive branch's
domination of policy information. However, an estimated 50 percent and more of
congressional staff resources are devoted to public relations, constituency
service, and other activities that serve primarily to keep House members in
office., the nonpartisan watchdog group on campaign contributions concurs, stating that:

Political action committees, whoever their sponsor and whatever their agenda,
have one overriding mandate: get the most bang for the buck. To maximize their
dollars, nearly all PACs – particularly among business groups – give the
overwhelming proportion of their campaign dollars to incumbents. With
congressional reelection rates typically in the 90 percent range, from their
point of view that’s a sound investment.

Not only are PACs not the “great equalizer” the Infamous Hyman claims them to be; they are a major factor in making the playing field unequal. Not that Sinclair executives care about fairness--their own corporate PAC gives virtually every penny to Republican candidates. In fact, the "principle" behind Hyman's position on this issue is almost certainly his staunch right-wing dogmatism; with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, anything that helps incumbants helps the GOP.

527 groups are a bit harder to pin down, simply because they are not officially linked to specific candidates. Yet, there’s little reason to think they have a different effect on the electoral process than hard money PACs. Those who invest in candidates want a return on their investment, and the smart money is always on incumbents. In fact, many politicians (including Tom “The Hammer” Delay) use 527s as ghost fundraising organizations for their own PACs. According to the Sourcewatch website (a project sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy), “politician 527s generally serve as soft money arms of 'leadership PACs,' which incumbents use to aid other candidates and otherwise further their own careers”

There are valid arguments to be made about the regulation of campaign contributions as a possible infringement on First Amendment rights, and groups such as ACT and the ACLU are making them.

There are also a number of valid reasons to be concerned about 527s: the lack of any limits on donations, the lack of disclosure of donors, their use as barely-camouflaged front groups for specific candidates and parties, their ability to throw huge amounts of money into campaigns at the last moment, the continuing premium they put on raising money as a prerequisite for attaining and keeping office, the automatic bias toward incumbents this entails, as well as the larger issue of whether it makes sense to equate writing a huge check with “political speech.”

The country deserves an honest debate about these topics. And while the Infamous Hyman has every right to take part in such a debate, his record of dishonesty on the subject should cause all of us, no matter what side of the issue we might be on, to disregard him entirely.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.