In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 8, 2004 / 25 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

What ‘reform’ wrought

By Jonathan Tobin

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High-minded campaign-finance laws sent this election into the sewer

https://www.jewishworldreview.com | Long after the dust settles from the 2004 presidential election, the recriminations and accusations of electoral skullduggery and media manipulation will live on. But writing before the results are final, I do know one thing about this year's vote: It's been the dirtiest election I have ever witnessed.

The tone of the campaign has been one of nonstop vilification of both President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry by their opponents. What's worse is that this high-volume vilification wasn't confined to the regular party hatchetpersons, but seeped into the national conversation conducted by ordinary voters in a way unknown in the last half-century.

Who's to blame? The candidates, the parties, the people who yell at each other for a living on talk radio and on the TV political talk shows, and yes, the supposedly responsible mainstream press all deserve a healthy share of responsibility.

Beware of do-gooders
But there's another sector that ought to own up to their role in creating this mudslinging fest: the high-minded do-gooders who created the latest batch of campaign finance reform legislation.

How is that possible?

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Wasn't the much lauded McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law passed in 2002 and signed by President Bush supposed to make politics cleaner and election fundraising more transparent?

Sure. McCain-Feingold — so named for its sponsors Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) — was supposed to do all that and more, especially since the constitutionality of the law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court despite persuasive arguments that the ban on so-called soft money was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. The result was that public action committees, the so-called PACs, could no longer spend directly to support or oppose candidates.

But in seeking to tweak existing election laws that sought to restrain the influence of money, McCain-Feingold fell prey to the same law of unintended consequences that afflicted previous efforts at reform. Rather than making things better, it worsened an already rotten system.

In analyzing how this happened, we need to start by recognizing that the entire concept of driving money out of politics is itself ridiculous. Money, like water in a flood plain, will always find its level in the politics of a free country. One might as well try to ban the air we breath as to proscribe the spending of campaign money.

Plug one hole in the system by banning soft money contributions to the parties and candidates, and another will pop up. The loophole in McCain-Feingold was that groups that did not directly advocate for or against a candidate were exempt from the soft-money limits.

That led to the creation of the the groups known as 527s (after section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code). These organizations are technically charities and not subject to federal election laws. They are entitled to spend the money they raise on voter mobilization efforts and by issue advertising. But in practice they do the work of the parties, mobilizing portions of the population that they think will support specific candidates, and focusing ads on issues that can criticize a candidate's views or record.

This moved money that was once donated to the parties and the candidates themselves, directing it to private groups or individuals. That proved disastrous because the candidates and the parties are usually restrained from all-out mudslinging, or making outrageous and patently false charges by the fact that such misbehavior can be thrown back in their faces. Say what you will about most politicians, but they are restrained from the villainy they might otherwise commit by the fact that the voters hold them accountable.

Not so, the 527s. Spending as much money as they want and often raising it from wealthy individuals whose influence on politics is otherwise marginal, the 527s say or do whatever they want.

Extremist groups like Moveon.org have become the loudest voices on the left, and excoriated the president in terms that no legitimate opponent would employ. While the Democrats could run on a campaign of national strength, left-wing 527s funded by people like megalomaniac billionaire George Soros could mobilize the anti-war crowd with lies.

On the right, 527s like the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" launched an attack on the character and the military service of John Kerry in a way that no mainstream politician would have dared to use, no matter how little they thought of him. Others on the right followed suit.

Rather than the two parties or their standard-bearers engaging each other, the national debate became dominated by the 527s. This pushed the parties farther to the extremes than they would otherwise have been. It also allowed the candidates or their surrogates to use friendly 527s to say things and influence voters with tactics they couldn't get away with themselves. And they call this reform?

Money isn't evil
The folly here is in imagining that spending money on politics is itself evil. As much as everyone decries the funds expended on presidential candidates, taken all together, it doesn't equal the ad bill for just one of the major car companies each year. Isn't electing a president a little more important than marketing Toyotas?

And seeking to create laws that will prevent "special interests" — the bad guys that McCain and Feingold were out to hamstring — isn't as righteous as it sounds. You may think some "special interests" are inherently evil, such as those that advocate for the oil and pharmaceutical industries, or companies that pollute the environment. But the same strictures apply just as easily to "good guy" groups, such as the environmentalists, and yes, pro-Israel activists.

What we need is less legislation and fewer artificial limits on political speech, and more transparency that would enable us to see exactly who is financing what. The reforms that gave us the 527s, such as previous ones that gave us the PACs, wind up doing just the opposite.

In 2005, expect the legislative agenda to be crowded with measures intended to curb the 527s. But those who think the next batch of "reforms" will do anything but make things even worse are simply kidding themselves.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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