Bush Campaign Lies
Saturday, April 17, 2004
The 1996 Senatorial campaign in Massachusetts was remarkable in recent American politics, due to the unusually high degree of civility between the two candidates, John Kerry and then-governor Bill Weld. As the Alliance for Better Campaigns reports, the candidates came to an agreement, in writing, limiting their campaign spending. Specifically:
- $6.9 million candidate spending cap. Campaign spending was limited to $6.9 million per candidate, retroactive to July 1, 1996. Of the $6.9 million, media spending was limited to $5 million, while candidate loans/donations from personal fortunes were limited to $500,000.
- Limits on party spending. In addition to the $6.9 million, each party's national senate campaign committee could spend up to $600,000 on behalf of the candidates - the federal maximum - and soft money spending by each national party was capped at $2 million.
- No outside spending. Spending on behalf of a candidate by unions, businesses, and advocacy groups would count toward that candidate's voluntary cap.
For the record, if Kerry did violate the agreement, then it certainly doesn't reflect well on him, but it isn't really what most folks would consider a flip-flop. I always think a flip-flop involves a policy position, not agreements you make with your electoral opponent. Maybe it's just me.
The real question, however, is which candidate, Kerry or Weld, breached the agreement first. There seems to be general agreement that Kerry went the farthest over the line, backing a $1.7 million loan to his campaign by taking out a mortgage on his home, thus going over the personal spending limit by $1.2 million. But if Weld broke the agreement first, one can hardly fault Kerry for responding in kind.
Kerry maintains that Weld went over his advertising budget; not surprisingly, the Weld folks insist that what they did was perfectly within the bounds of their agreement. And try as I might, I've been unable to discover definitive evidence which proves Weld or Kerry correct beyond dispute. Whatever the truth is, it seems that Weld and Kerry both feel that their spending agreement can serve as a model for other campaigns, as they describe in an article they co-wrote in 1998.
Even Bill Weld's campaign manager acknowledges that 'The finer points of the agreement are too complex to prove clearly that Kerry went back on his word'. So the Bush campaign shouldn't be saying that Kerry is guilty of breaking with the agreement as if it's an established fact. Since they do, I should really score this item as a lie, but I'll hold myself to a higher ethical standard than the Bush campaign. Since I can't prove definitively that Kerry didn't break the agreement first, I'm scoring this item as neutral --- no points deducted from either Kerry or Bush.