[The President]...acknowledges no rules. This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled "Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney's donors." In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having "less-than-reputable records," the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that "quite a few" have also been "on the wrong side of the law" and profiting at "the expense of so many Americans."
These are people like Paul Schorr and Sam and Jeffrey Fox, investors who the site outed for the crime of having "outsourced" jobs. T. Martin Fiorentino is scored for his work for a firm that forecloses on homes. Louis Bacon (a hedge-fund manager), Kent Burton (a "lobbyist") and Thomas O'Malley (an energy CEO) stand accused of profiting from oil. Frank VanderSloot, the CEO of a home-products firm, is slimed as a "bitter foe of the gay rights movement."
These are wealthy individuals, to be sure, but private citizens nonetheless. Not one holds elected office. Not one is a criminal. Not one has the barest fraction of the position or the power of the U.S. leader who is publicly assaulting them.
- Kim Strassel "The President Has A List", Potomac Watch on the WSJ Opinions page, today.
... And disclosure, despite Strassel's heavy breathing, does not equal initimidation. Political donations are public, the names and amounts a matter of record; what gets attached to those records - like, say, one's history in business or one's other political interests - is what we do with the First Amendment. We say stuff. And it gets heard.
Strassel's dark mutterings about vast Presidential conspiracies is probably most hilarious for the Nixonian referencing, given that Nixon's darkest political tactics - the searches for scandal and the rummaging in people's pasts are hardly things the Republicans have disavowed or left to the past. This, after all, from the contingent that still tries to trump up "Bill Ayers" and birth certificates and suspicions of Islamism into painting the President as monster. But hey, all's fair... until you ask just who's giving money and why.
Strassel's being mostly incoherent here, arguing for a kind of secrecy or some sort of "hands off" approach to donors she can't dcodify or describe in a straightforward way... mostly because it doesn't exist. And for me, this morning, this made a nice companion to pointing out the general pointlessness of Frank Rich's "eek, money!" complaints on the opposite end. Strassel's companion point form the right is just as silly: if people plan to give enormous sums of money to try andunseat the sitting President, knowing who they are and what their agendas might be is hardly the "abuse of power" Strassel is trying to claim. It's mostly one, small shred of valuing openness and information over secrecy and hiding. And like many conservative commentators who seem to find investigative reporting somehow not just beyond their skills but somehow beyond the pale, Strassel seems to be arguing against the very paper she works for.
Knowing is good. It's just that knowing alone isn't going to stop the stream of milionaire donations, anymore than vague threats of reprisals (which the President, one could note, really didn't make.) But hey... why let that stop a good column?