Politics

‘Big Money’ Author Kenneth Vogel On McCain-Feingold’s Unintended Consequences

In reading Kenneth P. Vogel new book, Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics, one thing comes to mind: McCain-Feingold was an unmitigated disaster.

Along those lines, during a recent conversation about the current state of campaign finance (including the proliferation of super PACs, etc.), I asked the author about it. Here’s his take:

[P]eople like to say Citizens United caused all this — and that’s true to some extent — but I think the roots of it do, in fact, go back…to McCain-Feingold, which was 2002. It was the effort to get money out of politics, and where the big money had been flowing at that point was to the party committees. And so, what McCain-Feingold did is ban these unlimited, so-called soft money donations to the party committees, and the money almost immediately at that point started flowing outside the party committees.

My take: It was a naive conceit to begin with. By tinkering with the system, reformers ironically reduced transparency and accountability.

This, of course, is just one of the many topics Vogel touches on in the book. For more on that, listen to my full podcast conversation with Kenneth P. Vogel here, and download the podcast on iTunes:

(And if you’re interested in this topic, make sure to also check out my recent interview with Daniel Schulman, author of  Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.)