Following up on my colleague Bert Gall’s discussion of seemingly unkillable frights, the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA) is also showing signs of life again. FENA, one may recall, is the name for a number of bills that operate from the assumption that if you preemptively shower politicians with the people’s money, they will not be tempted to be corrupt. Perhaps realizing that the post-election environment will be hostile for government subsidies for unsuccessful enterprises, Congress is giving the idea of bailing itself out one more try. On Thursday, September 23, 2010, the House Committee on Administration will vote on yet another version of FENA.
The current version of FENA does not include an obviously constitutionally-problematic “matching” or “rescue” funds provision, like the systems recently struck down in Connecticut and Florida and the Arizona system recently stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean that the various versions of FENA do not contain serious constitutional problems. Moreover, there is little evidence that using the people’s money to subsidize the campaigns of politicians provides any of the myriad and vast benefits promised by campaign finance reformers.
When the government is spending trillions and sinking deeper into destabilizing debt, spending money the government doesn’t have to subsidize political campaigns seems like a bad joke. At best, it displays a level of denial and entitlement by our elected officials that is almost delusional. The members of the Committee should do themselves, the Constitution, the federal budget, and the taxpayers a favor and vote this idea down once and for all.