The Hill's Amie Parnes and Niall Stanage report:
President Obama will attend his last fundraiser of the 2012 campaign Thursday and then ... spend the rest of the campaign at swing-state rallies or preparing for the next two debates instead of attending more private fundraisers.
One wonders if the president feels a certain sense of sadness about this shift in his priorities. Fundraising being something, after all, that he is still undeniably good at, even as his other gifts seem to have atrophied.
Interesting, of course, that the president is not forgoing the private fundraisers in order to spend more time at the office, doing the job he was elected – and being paid – to do. It is unrealistic, of course, to expect the president not to campaign or raise funds during the election season but this President has done an awful lot of fund raising at all times of the year, every year that he has been in office. The widely circulated measure is that President Obama has “held more re-election fund raisers than the previous five presidents combined.”
Some might not mind. If he wants to spend his time playing golf and raising cash for his next campaign, then he may be distracted and too busy to do things that might cause real damage to the country. Others, however, find it unseemly that the president should spend his time this way; Gregg Easterbrook among them. Easterbrook's ESPN column, Tuesday Morning Quarterback, is a reliably lively mix of football, politics, technology, and popular culture ... among other things. In this edition, Easterbrook takes on professional football's obsession with complexity:
The Vikings employ 22 coaches, most in the NFL. Having 22 coaches sounds like having five girlfriends -- way too many to juggle. Players couldn't possibly relate to 22 coaches, while the coaches would engage in busy work by drawing up ever-more-complicated plans, in order to justify their presence.
Later in the column, he turns to the president's relentless pursuit of money, which Easterbrook finds ... well, distasteful. If the Supreme Court will not allow limits on political spending (i.e. free speech), he writes, that does not mean that the voters cannot insist on legislation that prohibits elected officials, as a condition of their employment, from engaging in fundraising:
If any person or organization wants to donate to the president or other elected official, fine, so long as the donation is disclosed. But it should not be fine for a sitting president or other elected official not only to solicit donations but to do so on public time, receiving public pay and benefits while asking interest groups for more money. Surely this engages the actuality and appearance of corruption" the Supreme Court said in 1976 was the one aspect of political money that may be regulated.
Holding a political office is a form of employment. Employers may impose rules. If you told your employer, "I am not going to perform my duties for months at a time because I am jetting around the nation fundraising for myself, and by the way I expect my full salary," your employer would not tolerate this. Voters should not tolerate this either. Foreswearing fundraising should be one of the conditions of holding public office. And if that handed an advantage to challengers -- good, because incumbents hold too many advantages.
Sounds good and reasonable. But the political class will not be denied. Loopholes large enough to serve as hangers for Air Force One would quickly be written into the legislation. And the wink-wink, nod-nod culture would find a way to prevail. "Whatta you mean 'fundraising,' I was there to talk policy. Not my fault that someone passed a hat after I finished speaking."
The crusade to get the money out of politics is doomed and the reason is ... because there is so much money in politics. The Washington area is rich. And that is not because it is sitting on top of vast reserves of oil and natural gas.
It is, however, interesting to imagine an alternate universe in which someone like, say, Senator Charles Schumer is suddenly rendered unable to go out and raise truckloads of hot political cash. One imagines him experiencing symptoms much like those any addict suffers during withdrawal. Fundraising is what people like Schumer do. They are good at it. And there is an immediate payoff, a high, when they get that pledge or that check. This is real action, unlike the slow, tedious working of the legislative process.
Get the money out of politics?
Tell us another one.