If there is one news story that tell us all we need to know about what is wrong with our campaign finance system it is this one. The White House apparently followed the advice of its ethics lawyers and kept a healthy – and legal – distance from campaign fundraising in 2014. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – soon to become Minority Leader – is not happy about that. His chief of staff is now blaming the President for losing the election because he didn’t raise enough cash. The Constitution has no reference to fundraising as part of the President’s job, but that does not matter in Washington these days.
Been there done that. I saw this story play out in the 2006 election cycle, and it is not a pleasant one. Blame the President. Blame the ethics lawyers. Blame anybody and anything but the corruption of our government by campaign finance. The President’s poll numbers are not good, but Congress’s approval ratings are a lot worse. I wonder why.
The story in the Washington Post is here:
And the most relevant text from the story is this:
With Democrats under assault from Republican super-PAC ads, Reid and his lieutenants, Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), went to the Oval Office on March 4 to ask Obama for help. They wanted him to transfer millions of dollars from the Democratic National Committee to the DSCC, a relatively routine transaction.
Beyond that, they had a more provocative request — they wanted Obama to help raise money for the Senate Majority PAC, an outside group run by former Reid advisers.
Despite his deep aversion to super PACs, Obama in early 2012 reluctantly sanctioned Priorities USA, a super PAC set up to back his reelection, and allowed White House and campaign officials to appear at the group’s fundraisers. But Reid and Senate Democrats thought the president was not giving the same level of support for Senate Majority PAC.
Lawyers negotiated for months over legal minutia, with Obama’s counselors insisting that the president appear only as a guest and do no donor solicitation, which would have violated federal law. After Obama appeared at two Senate Majority PAC events — June 17 in New York and July 22 in Seattle — the president’s lawyers demanded that no staffer follow up with the donors for at least seven days.
These contingencies were so strict, [Sen. Reid’s Chief of Staff] Krone argued, that it would be fruitless to involve the president at all. “They were setting the rules as they saw fit,” he said. “For some reason, they hid behind a lot of legal issues.”
The White House maintains that it was prudent in protecting the presidency and avoid any appearances of a quid pro quo. The senior White House official voiced displeasure with Senate Majority PAC’s methods: “They were calling Obama donors who we had long relationships with and making asks that annoyed the donors.”