Matt Brown’s Campaign Finance Woes
In a ceremony Thursday in the law offices of Republican Attorney General candidate J. William Harsch, state GOP Chairwoman Patricia Morgan signed on to an FEC complaint already filed by the Hawaii Republican Party.Brown continues to assert that the matter is about appearance and not substance…
The complaint charges a “tit for tat” arrangement in which donors who had already contributed the maximum amount allowable under law to the Brown campaign sent donations to Democratic Party organizations in Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maine, and then those party organizations contributed a similar amount to Brown.
Brown, who has campaigned as a reformer and clean government candidate, has since returned the money, insisting that the arrangement was “completely legal” but acknowledging that it presents a “perception problem.”I suspect that Mr. Brown will eventually be vindicated in a legal sense.
Brown campaign spokesman Matt Burgess brushed the complaint off as “just politics. It is Republicans filing complaints against Democrats. It was all completely legal and that’s what the FCC will find.
Asked Thursday if the Brown campaign would do the same thing again, spokesman Matt Burgess said no, but only because it presented a perception problem, not because it was a wrong thing to do.
However, this incident shows how campaign finance “reform” has become a barrier preventing the politically unconnected from entering politics. Mr. Brown has (had?) a legitimate shot at a Senate seat because his career in politics allowed him to develop the nationwide connections needed to set up an elaborate fundraising network capable of delivering small contributions from all over the country. Someone who has not made politics their entire career rarely has that kind of access.
Under the current system, the only people who can raise the money needed to run for statewide office are those who are in a position to spend years building a fundraising network, those with the right connections who are granted access to someone else’s established network, or those who are independently wealthy. To level the playing field between the connected and unconnected, a better solution is to simplify campaign finance regulations but increase transparency and tighten up the rules regarding disclosure.
Finally, a question: Do people think that Matt Brown survives this or not? Since the Democratic primary is basically a beauty contest between two candidates with identical positions on the issues, I don’t see what Mr. Brown can do to differentiate himself from Sheldon Whitehouse and bounce back from this.