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What McCain Could Learn From Ron Paul

Sunlight disinfects.

By Petrarch  |  December 18, 2007

In every presidential pageantry, the electorate knows what to expect.  The candidates hire the same pollsters and gurus; tramp the same snow in Iowa and New Hampshire; dine on the same rubber chicken; and mouth many of the same platitudes ad nauseum.  They're always boring.  They're always predictable.

The only real fun is the anticipation of a third party candidate that is willing to dance on the wild side.  These "dark horses" have the freedom to try new things because they would rather be booed by large crowds than cheered by small ones.  In politics, attention is priceless.

Some new ideas, like Ross Perot's hour-long infomercials, flip-charts, and "crazy ain't in the basement," recede unlamented into history's dustbin.  Others, like Howard Dean's aggressive Internet fundraising, become ongoing fixtures regardless of the defeat of their originator.

This year's spark plug is Ron Paul.  Over the last few months, Ron Paul has managed to raise a truly awe-inspiring amount of money.  A few days ago, he raise $6 million in a 24 hour period.  This broke his previous one-day record of $4.2 million.

At various times, he's not only had the most cash on hand of any candidate, he's had more than all the other Republicans combined.  And unlike many candidates with wealthy relations or shooting buddies, Dr. Paul has collected most of his money from small individual donors - that is, ordinary American workers who have decided to support him with their hard-earned dollars.

How do we know this?  In a historic first, the Paul campaign is running a real-time feed over the Internet of all donations. You can actually sit back and watch his bucks pour in!

But as a researcher, you can also trawl through them to see from whence they came, and analyze them in any number of ways.  Since many of Dr. Paul's supporters are quite technologically sophisticated, there are now independent analytical sites, offering nicely-formatted charts and graphs showing the sources of his funds.

Notably, the Chinese People's Liberation Army is not listed as a major donor.  Nor are Buddhist monks who have taken a vow of poverty, nor yet Norman Hsu.  What's more, with all the names out there available for both supporters and enemies to trawl through, it's far less likely that Paul will smash headlong into a fundraising fiasco.  So not only can we determine that his funding is clean, we can also have a fair degree of confidence that it will remain this way.

What a tremendous contrast this presents to the absurd loopholes and restrictions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform," which has brought us such disgraces as the General Betray-Us ad via the "527 rule." All the money is still in politics; now it's just outside of the direct control of the candidate, which means the ads can be even more vile than they were before.  How is this helpful?

Dr. Paul has, by accident or design, presented us with an eminently practical and even Constitutional solution: remove all restrictions on campaign fundraising (except bribery, obviously).  Simply require the campaigns to furnish a live feed of donors.  This way, if someone is taking money from a nasty player, everyone can find out about it and vote accordingly - thus giving the campaign an incentive not to look the other way.

Money, as has been said, is the mother's milk of politics.  We'll never separate the two - and in a nation of 300 million people needing to be informed, we shouldn't try.  It's only a question of where the money comes from.

Attempts at regulating it have failed utterly, so enough of this already!  Forget all the rules, laws, and loopholes.  Just one simple rule:  Say where it came from, right away, publicly.  The American electorate, and the nature of partisanship, can take it from there.