THE WASHINGTON TIMES. MARCH 27, 2013. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa purely hates “big money” in politics, though he’s willing to make an exception for donors to the proposed Harkin Institute of Public Policy at Iowa State University.
A senior Harkin campaign aide, according to The Associated Press, slipped a helpful list of big-money contributors to fundraisers at Iowa State University to help them in the pursuit of big money for the institute. Several of the potential big-money donors were beneficiaries of amendments the senator attached to legislation.
Mr. Harkin plays the influence-peddling game that he loudly condemns as one of the Senate’s leading advocates for limiting political contributions. He is the co-author of a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which would strengthen the government’s ability to restrain citizens, united or not, from criticizing politicians.”By limiting the influence of big money in politics, elections can be more about the voters and their voices, not big-money donors and their deep pockets,” says Mr. Harkin. But his opposition to “big-money donors and their deep pockets” stops at the university doors, particular university doors in Iowa City.Mr. Harkin’s ego knows no bounds. He is at the moment withholding the papers he has accumulated over 35 years in Congress from Iowa State, demanding that the university guarantee him tighter control over the Harkin Institute’s research into Tom Harkin. Apparently, people are already lined up in the cold rain and blowing snow to be first in line when the Harkin Institute has those papers, so they can study Tom Harkin.Campaign-finance reform so dear to Mr. Harkin usually works out to an incumbent-protection racket. Public financing of elections relieves officeholders and office-seekers from the burden of persuading others to support their run for office. Mr. Harkin and his ilk created government agencies to police political advertisements and dictate the words and decide when the ads can run.
The Supreme Court took a modest step forward with Citizens United, ruling that it was a violation of the First Amendment for the government to prevent a nonprofit group or corporation from showing a documentary critical of an office-seeker before an election.
“Some may think that one group or another should not express its views in an election because it is too powerful, because it advocates unpopular ideas, or because it has a record of lawless action,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote. “First Amendment rights are part of the heritage of all persons and groups in this country. They are not to be dispensed or withheld merely because we or the Congress thinks the person or group is worthy or unworthy.”Justice Kennedy was not speaking directly to Mr. Harkin when he wrote that, but he could have been. Mr. Harkin thinks his legacy is a cause worth contributing to, but a campaign about an issue is not. When government officials can pick and choose the causes and campaigns the citizens can contribute to, and how much they can contribute, we’ll have lots of little Tom Harkin Institutes - and a lot less freedom of expression.