Soft Money, Hard Cash

In which our man Durst explains in layman’s terms how soft money works, and exposes the link between Al Gore and Keith Richards.

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Right on time, Congress is talking about campaign finance reform again, but the issue has about as much chance of coming to a vote as carrier pigeons have of re-emerging as the nation’s premier mode of long distance communication.

No matter how much our honorable politicians mouth the practiced mantra of how important this issue is, they’d rather stick a hand full of paper cuts into a vat of Tabasco sauce than see their incumbency lose privilege. I know, I know, I know — this shocking news is on a par with the discovery that South Pacific beaches contain sand and deceased porcupines are unsuitable for use as pillow stuffing.

Of course, each party claims it’s as pure as a newborn fawn in the driven snow of a Tibetan monastery courtyard, and that it’s the evil other guys who are abusing the murky rules on campaign contributions. One of those “living in glass houses and playing ping-pong naked with paddles made from $1,000 bills” things if you ask me.

The target this election year is “soft” money, which is given to the party and not individuals. Almost half a billion dollars of soft money was given during the ’96 election, which sounds about as “soft” as a soggy bowl of sugar-frosted railroad spikes.

See, if you say, “Bob Jones would rather raise taxes than pet his dog. Vote for Jim Smith,” that’s hard money talking. If you say, “Bob Jones would rather raise taxes than pet his dog. As a matter of fact he doesn’t even own a dog,” and the whole Jim Smith thing remains implicit, that’s the whisper of soft money. And if you get rid of soft money, you’ll end up with spongy money and then the ads will go: “Some people think dogs should be ground up and fed to pigs. Some of these same people think Jim Smith should be elected. How ’bout you?”

Even Al Gore is in favor campaign finance reform, which is real similar to a coyote in favor of the elimination of trapping season limits. Although you’ve got to give him credit for being self-aware enough to admit he may not be the best possible messenger for this cause, like Keith Richards might not be the best poster boy for the zero-tolerance campaign.

Gore said he made a few fundraising calls from his White House office, which is still so illegal that chuckles were coming from Nixon’s grave. Then it turned out the few calls numbered 83. He thinks 83 is a few. What’s several? Somewhere around five figures? The only man in America to whom the term “a few” is divisible by 18.

In response to the uproar caused by his Buddhist Nun mugging, Gore pined: “Mistakes were made, and now it’s time to move on.” What I want to know is who couldn’t use this rationale? Manson? The CFO of Looksmart? Hitler? Even Hinckley wouldn’t have to couch it in the passive.

It’s a dance these guys know they have to play because polls reveal we the people want campaign finance reform. But it’s such a familiar dance, the painted footsteps marked out on the floor of Congress are starting to chip and fade.

So if you plan on waiting for the two parties to actually reach a compromise on campaign reform this year, you would best be advised to not hold your breath … unless you enjoy that certain kind of bluish look most often associated with people who are no longer eligible for Social Security benefits because they have become very skinny and dead.

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FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

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