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Wednesday, August 27, 2003


How Dean can forego spending caps...

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, August 27, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
... and avoid the flip-flop charge, courtesy Liberal Oasis:

The reality is, George Bush is planning to game the system.

Bush Inc. has said the campaign won’t abide by spending caps during the primary, but will during the general election.

(The Federal Election Commission distributes matching funds for the primary, and a straight-up grant for each eligible major-party candidate in the general election.)

The Bush plan sounds innocuous, since he doesn’t face anyone significant in the primary. But the trick is the primary period doesn’t end until the candidate is officially nominated. And the RNC pushed the nomination all the way to Sept. 2, past the traditional August date for the incumbent party.

Since Bush is aiming to raise upwards of $200M for the "primary," he can dump all of that during the winter, spring and summer.

Then, scoop up about $74M of taxpayer cash in the general election grant.

That’s a blatant bastardization of the system (though it produces no dismay, only jaw-dropping awe, from the political press corps.)

That gives any Dem, who can pull it off, legit grounds to opt-out of the public system that he or she supports in theory. Yet Dean was so adamant about public financing before. How can he escape being called a hypocrite? He’s made the Bush argument already. But if it looks like he’s trying to buy the primary, that argument won’t wash.

Here’s how he could solve the conundrum.

Formally opt-out of the primary matching funds system, so he can fundraise at will. But informally announce that he will not spend more than $44M – the estimated spending cap – in the actual primary contest. That way, he can’t be accused of unfairly drowning his Dem opponents in campaign cash, and violating the principle of public financing.

But he would be able to spend freely in the period between when he might effectively win the nomination, and technically accept it at the Dem convention in late July. That wouldn’t come close to buying the election. It’s just trying to keep pace with Bush Inc., trying to make it a fair fight.

And Dean, in particular, would still have the authenticity of being fueled primarily by small donors (while two-thirds of Bush donors have given the $2K max). Furthermore, the $44M move would also have a side benefit of imposing some spending discipline on the campaign during the primary.

I'm convinced. Bush is gaming the system, embracing the moneyed elites. Dean is sowing the grassroots, and imposing spending discipline on his campaign. Honor counts.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.