Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Jeff Shields of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Oklahoma oilman Aubrey McClendon wound up giving $450,000 to help defeat an attorney general candidate in Pennsylvania. I guess it's not unusual for fat cats to throw their weight around by trying to tell people in other states who should represent them. But, the funny thing here is that McClendon didn't even know he was doing it.
McClendon had given about $1.8 million to several so-called 527 groups whose goal was to help elect pro-business candidates. This included a contribution to the Republican State Leadership Committee. The RSLC was set up as a way of evading the McCain-Feingold restrictions on soft money contributions to political parties.
The RSLC then pumped the money into the Keystone State AG race, without telling McClendon. His spokesperson says that "we didn't know anything about the race or the candidates." Nor did McClendon relish the image of his out-of-state company "trying to alter the will of the people in that state."
The RSLC also didn't tell the voters of Pennsylvania who was trying to alter their will, despite a court order to do so. Voters didn't find out who was behind the ads until December 3, after the election was over. The RSLC has been fined $20,000 for failing to disclose its contributions in Louisiana as well.
Special interests and their lawyers argue against campaign finance reform because they say it infringes on their First Amendment rights. But when donors don't even know how their money is being spent or who it is supporting, it makes the notion of campaign contributions as free speech seem ridiculous. If Oklahoma oilmen want to tell Pennsylvanians how to vote, let them show up in Philly and speak out in front of the Liberty Bell. That would be a lot more honest than funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy an election behind closed doors.