Belmont Club

To the victor, the spoils

Win and the world laughs with you. Lose and they kick you while you’re down. From the Politico.

The Federal Election Commission is unlikely to conduct a potentially embarrassing audit of how Barack Obama raised and spent his presidential campaign’s record-shattering windfall, despite allegations of questionable donations and accounting that had the McCain campaign crying foul.

Adding insult to injury for Republicans: The FEC is obligated to complete a rigorous audit of McCain’s campaign coffers, which will take months, if not years, and cost McCain millions of dollars to defend.

Obama is expected to escape that level of scrutiny mostly because he declined an $84 million public grant for his campaign that automatically triggers an audit and because the sheer volume of cash he raised and spent minimizes the significance of his errors. Another factor: The FEC, which would have to vote to launch an audit, is prone to deadlocking on issues that inordinately impact one party or the other – like approving a messy and high-profile probe of a sitting president.

Maybe the real object of pity here should be the idea of government funded campaigning. After all, McCain is political history and will soon recede into the past. But the idea that bad money could be kept out of elections by government funding has proved, if Obama’s campaign escapes scrutiny while McCain is put under the lens, to have no future. The incentives to follow the McCain funding model, rather than the disable-your-creditcard-checks model, are nil.

Politics is creative in that it permits a society to express preferences with wide latitude. But it is also creative in that it sets precedent, tone and usage. What can create can also destroy. The legacy of the election of 2008 will be more than Barack Obama. It will also include the outright partisanship of the press, the less than satisfactory voting processes and now campaign funding reform failure. That’s what has been given to the future. And problem with the future, as the psychic Criswell once observed, is that it is the place where most of us — and our children — are going to live.