by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If there is a secular religion among Democrats, it’s campaign-finance reform — driving big money out of politics regardless of the limitations of the First Amendment.
The issue came up last week in the Democratic primary debate when Bernie Sanders accused Hillary Clinton of being supported by a super PAC that has raised more than $15 million from Wall Street interests. Visibly agitated, she accused Sanders of an “artful smear” by insinuating that she has given special access or favors to contributors.
The issue clearly rattles Team Clinton. It is now under pressure to release transcripts of lavishly paid speeches she gave to executives at Goldman Sachs and other investment banks. …
… But Team Clinton is now fighting back. Howard Dean is a former governor of Vermont, Bernie Sanders’s home state, but is backing Hillary. Friday on MSNBC, he sarcastically noted that Sanders shouldn’t boast about his freedom from super PACs given his ties with organized labor.
“I don’t hear anybody asking Bernie Sanders for transcripts of some speech he made for a labor union,” he told Andrea Mitchell. “Frankly, for Bernie to say he doesn’t have a super PAC — labor unions are super PACs. Now, they’re super PACs that Democrats like, so we don’t go after labor unions, but this is a double standard.”
Dean isn’t just any Democrat letting the liberal campaign-finance cat out of the bag. A leading contender for the 2004 Democratic nomination, he served as chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009.
“In politics a gaffe is when a politician inadvertently tells the truth, and that’s what Dean just did,” Grover Norquist, the head of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, tells me. “Labor unions are super PACs that dwarf all others. Because they don’t have to ask for contributions, they can legally force workers to pay dues that are then turned into involuntary political donations and that pay ‘volunteers’ to work in campaigns.”