Former FEC Chairman’s Take on Death of Unity08

Here’s what Bradley Smith wrote:

We can’t help but note the plight of Unity08, now on its deathbed. The culprit: campaign finance laws. [...]

And in this enterprise of raising start-up cash, Unity08 was stymied by the Federal Election Commission, which really had no choice - the law plainly limited contributions to Unity08. After McCain-Feingold, soft money - i.e. money for the much-maligned “party building” - to political parties was banned.

As Unity08’s founders write on their website, “We were caught in a peculiar catch-22; we wanted to break the dependence on big money by getting lots of small contributions from millions of members, but needed some up-front big money to help generate the millions of members to make the small contributions. And the FEC … didn’t let that happen.”

Yeah, duh. That’s what some of us have been saying for years.

I participated in the early Unity08 conference calls and wasn’t satisfied that they had a good handle on federal election law or ballot access issues. As a result, I put my name on their e-mail lists but didn’t participate with the program beyond that.

According to Smith, “Unity08 tries to make it sound as though this is some rogue FEC decision,” arguing that the FEC applied the laws as they are written.

Many of the readers of this website generally oppose the regulations and limitations enforced by the FEC. Others go in the opposite direction, generally preferring public campaign financing. I find this division somewhat interesting. Smith noted the following:

None of this, however, seems to have shaken the faith of Unity08’s founders in the noble enterprise of campaign finance reform. They offer not a word of criticism of the law that appears likely to lead to the organization’s death, only of the executioner, sworn to carry it out, yet so often maligned for the lack of enthusiasm with which it undertakes such duties. Like those who want to extinguish mankind to preserve a “pure” earth, Unity08, it seems, would rather die than renounce the purity of campaign finance reform. In which case, it seems to us, it is a noble death, unfortunate, but nonetheless well deserved.

3 Responses to “Former FEC Chairman’s Take on Death of Unity08”

  1. Steven R Linnabary Says:

    Is there any benefit to any third party candidate filing with the FEC?? Smaller parties seem to think it is a badge of honor to have their candidates file, but even Imperato has filed.

    I don’t think that Irwinn Schiff ever filed (though I could be wrong), and I seriously doubt that Badnarik filed, at least before receiving the LP nomination.

    Are there any repercussions for a candidate that refuses to file?

    FWIW, I refuse to file with the Ohio Elections Commission for my races in ‘99 & 2000. I went before the entire board in 2001, gave my reasons and gave them three SCOTUS opinions (Alabama v NAACP, Socialist Workers arty of Ohio v Brown, and McIntire v Ohio Elections Commission). One curmudgeony board member disallowed my objections and snarled “I don’t see Mr. Rehnquist anywhere in this room”!

    Since that time, I rarely ever hear from the OEC, other than to get an annual statement requesting my campaign pay $100/day fine (last time I checked it was in range of $350,000). But this never appears on any credit report.

    I realize this topic has been up a few days, and nobody has yet responded, but I am really curious as to what others think.


  2. Bipartisan08 Says:

    It is true that Unity08 couldn’t attract enough small donors because they didn’t have a prominent candidate to galvanize excitement. Had Bloomberg anounced a Unity08 run, that would have been enough to get media attention, attract new Unity08 members, and achieve ballot access in 50 states. Unity08 would have suddently become big news.

    So, I speculate that Bloomberg told the Unity08 people that he didn’t want to compete against any other Unity08 candidates but rather just run his own campaign for his own advantage. Bailey & Rafshoon read the tea leaves and figured that supporting a Bloomberg candidacy was more likely to be successful than to try and run a Unity08 campaign with a lesser known candidate and also splitting the centrist/independent vote with Bloomberg. Fair enough. I suppose this is a reasonable call.

    The big problem that I have is that Unity08 should not have been about an individual but rather about the principle of bipartisanship which will outlive any individual’s political career? Will the concept of a bipartisan movement die at the expense of the fickle opinions that voters will have about Bloomberg? (Reform died with the fortunes of Perrot) Hopefully not but all hopes of bipartisanship at this critical time will probably sink or swim depending upon the fortunes of Mr. Bloomberg.

    Here is what’s needed. A Unity08-like coalition of centrist voters that run a unity Pres/VP campaign so that attention will be drawn to the organization and it’s principles. BUT that this coalition would run NO candidates below this level. RATHER it would make voting recommendations to it’s coalition members so that extremist candidates (based on voting records or NPAT surveys) would not get votes from the centrists. A small number of organized centrists would be very powerful because they are the swing voters.

    The two big parties would have to move to the center if they had any hope of winning elections. A bipartisan executive working with a legislature who was more willing to be bipartisan would result in results. And that’s what we need right now…results instead of gridlock.

  3. manibmdog Says:

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