You can’t watch coverage of the presidential campaign this year without being bombarded with the word ‘change’. It’s plastered on almost every campaign sign and seems to be every other word that comes out of some candidates’ mouths. Conservatives are all for some types of change, but also very much against any change that sacrifices key principles of our founding fathers for negligible policy gains. Liberal columnist Richard Cohen’s recent op-ed advocating for public financing of elections is exactly the type of change this country can’t afford.

Writing on what ‘change’ Washington really needs, Cohen writes:

Break the system we now have … Institute the public funding of elections … candidates emphasize banishing lobbyists from this or that part of their realm … But lobbyists are not the problem. The problem is the need for them. … The only way to eliminate the disproportionate influence of lobbyists is to break Congress’s nymphomaniacal lust for campaign funds.

This statement shows how Cohen fundamentally misunderstands why lobbyists exist. Politicians did not create lobbyists so they could raise campaign funds. Businesses created lobbyists because government was (and still is) picking winning and losers in the marketplace. Microsoft is now one of the largest spenders on K Street, but the spending did not start until the antitrust litigation against them. Redmond didn’t come to DC, DC came to Redmond.

Money is not irrelevant in DC (it’s relevant everywhere). But what Cohen, and everyone who supports campaign finance reform, so obviously does not understand about DC is that you are not your wallet in this town … you are your Rolodex. Successful lobbyists are smart people who have invested the time and care necessary to establish the right relations over a long time.

Public funding of elections would do nothing to stop well heeled special interests hiring those in DC with the best connections. Instead it would do great violence to the First Amendment by further regulating who can say what when and how. All this at a time when our current government intervention into the free speech, the Federal Elections Commission, has been reduced to an impotent advisory role due to partisan bickering. The founders knew it was vitally important to keep the government out of regulating speech, that is why they made it the first protection in the Bill of Rights. Cohen obviously values his right to free speech, If only he respected others right to exercise theirs.

Quick Hits:

  • Writing for National Journal Stuart Taylor sides with Indiana against liberal activist groups in the voter ID case set to be argued in the Supreme Court today: “Although I think that Indiana should make voting a bit easier for low-income people who lack photo IDs, I lean toward [Judge Richard] Posner’s conclusion: ‘Perhaps the Indiana law can be improved — what can’t be? — but the details for regulating elections must be left to the states.’ If perfection were the constitutional standard, the courts would be rewriting state electoral codes wholesale. It is also significant that opinion polls show that voters increasingly distrust the integrity of the electoral process, with overwhelming majorities across party and racial lines concerned enough about voter fraud to support photo-ID requirements. Perceptions matter.”
  • Jose Padilla ’s sentencing hearing began Tuesday in Miami with Defense Lawyers raising more than 90 objections to a report recommending life in prison. Prosecutors argued the objections are an attempt to undermine the jury’s guilty verdict.
  • Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich announced that illegal immigrants living in his county collected more than $37 million in welfare and food stamps this past Novemebr. According to Department of Public Social Services statistics released by Antonovich’s office, 25% of the county’s welfare and food stamps benefits is going directly to the children of illegal immigrants.
  • Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards claimed footage released by the US showing Iranian speedboats harassing US warships was fabricated.
  • Collegiate Times reports that before leaving for Israel Tuesday, President Bush signed a bill to prevent the severely mentally ill from purchasing guns. The bill, which authorizes $1.3 billion in grant money to states to better track and report individuals who shouldn’t qualify to legally buy a gun, won passage in light of the Virginia Tech tragedy early in 2007.