Monday, January 19, 2009

Politics: Money & Ethics

OK, here's a question: What is the real effect of money in politics? Barack Obama, heralded now for his pragmatism, changed the game when he blew off public financing. Obama took the money, the ultimate pragmatic decision.
Political ethics "reform" always seems to come back to more rules. This is the theme of the liberal reformers, one example in New Mexico being Sen. Dede Feldman of Albuquerque.
I'm interested in the value, dubious to me, of more rules and more detailed rules. I think that all that happens is that the smart guys just hire lawyers to get around the rules. More rules mean more lawyers.
I think that, other things equal, public financing, as we have with the Public Regulation Commission, gives a big edge to the incumbent or someone otherwise with name ID. The way one gets name ID is to buy it. Gary Johnson is the NM model of buying name ID. Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez has to be hoping that every other mayoral candidate uses public financing. That's because, given Chavez' name ID, an opponent would have to outspend him, maybe two-to-one, to get any attention.
My overall interest is in the meaning of ethics in politics. Nearly everyone, especially liberals but also conservatives, has bought the notion that more ethics means more rules. The overall topic is bigger. Its the whole question, the moral question, of the behavior of officials. The Bible and Aristotle are the experts. A small example goes to the habit of restaurants owned by Gerald Peters, Santa Fe art dealer, real estate mogul and friend of Bill, of hosting fund raisers for politicians. Even if Peters doesn't donate, the politico accepting the "favor" of use of the facility has accepted a favor from Peters. Hmm...
I always come back to the notion that with campaign financing rules, we would not have had Gene McCarthy. Remember, a couple of rich guys financed McCarthy. That couldn't happen today and that's bad.

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