March 21, 2005

ASTROTURFING CAMPAIGN FINANCE “REFORM:” John Fund observes:

If a political gaffe consists of inadvertently revealing the truth, then Sean Treglia, a former program officer for the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, has just ripped the curtain off of the “good government” groups that foisted the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill on the country in 2002. The bill’s restrictions on political speech have the potential for great mischief; just last month a member of the Federal Election Commission warned they could limit the activities of bloggers and other Internet commentators.

What Mr. Treglia revealed in a talk last year at the University of Southern California is that far from representing the efforts of genuine grass-roots activists, the campaign finance reform lobby was controlled and funded by liberal foundations like Pew. In a tape obtained by the New York Post, Mr. Treglia tells his USC audience they are going to hear a story he can reveal only now that campaign finance reform has become law. “The target audience for all this [foundation] activity was 535 people in [Congress],” Mr. Treglia says in his talk. “The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot. That everywhere [Congress] looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform.”

Ironic, isn’t it, that a movement supposedly about getting secret money out of politics seems to have been fueled by just the sort of behavior it deplored.

UPDATE: Reader John Steele emails: “They never deplored money in political speech, they just wanted to make sure that theirs was the only money and speech involved.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brian Linse says that the difference is that in Armstrong Williams’ case the money came from the government. Well, to taxpayers that’s a difference — but payola is payola, isn’t it, from the perspective of the reader?