As a sophisticated observer of the political scene and reader of the Manhattan Contrarian, you undoubtedly know why we have strict and intricate campaign finance laws: They are "to get money out of politics." Or something like that.
Or are they really about protecting incumbents and putting roadblocks in the way of challengers? Or, even worse, are they about giving partisan prosecutors some tools to take down inconvenient Republicans while Democrats get a pass? I'll let you be the judge.
First, the basics of how this works. Much of which, by the way, you can blame on the recently-departed John McCain, via the so-called McCain-Feingold campaign finance law of 2002. One of his many mistakes in life -- but then, we all make mistakes. The central provision of this campaign finance law is that contributions to "campaigns" for federal office are limited in amount, essentially to $2700 per election cycle for an individual or $5400 for a couple. Obviously, for such a restriction to work, it must then be illegal for a "campaign" to pay "campaign expenses" from a source other than the funds contributed in accordance with the limits. Equally obviously, since you have raised "campaign funds" for your "campaign" in accordance with strict limits and representations, it must be illegal to use the "campaign funds" for other than "campaign purposes." And, to make this all work seamlessly, all "campaign expenses" over $200 must be reported and accurately described to the bureaucrats at the Federal Election Commission. Needless to say, any violation of these rules is a crime.
So let's see how these rules get applied in a few recent examples:
Trump/Cohen . . .Read More