National Opinions

Unbundle those campaign contributions

The following editorial appeared in Newsday on Tuesday.

"Money, like water, will always find an outlet." So said the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, when it ruled that fund-raising restrictions imposed by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law are constitutional. Four years later, bundlers have become the outlet of choice, a cash spewing spigot that candidates should be made to disclose.

Bundling — gathering campaign contributions from a large number of people and delivering the money en masse to a candidate — is legal and has been around for years. But it gained prominence in the last presidential election. That's when candidates began to opt out of the public campaign finance system, which provides too little money and delivers it too late to meet the demands of the increasingly front-loaded primary election season. Public money came with campaign spending limits, however, and now, all bets are off.

Candidates are free to spend as much as they can raise, and bundlers help them raise a bundle. The poster boy for the excesses is Norman Hsu, who bundled $800,000 for Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential bid before he was discovered to be a fugitive from justice and charged with swindling investors.

Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., have sponsored legislation to both reinvigorate the public finance system and require candidates to disclose the identity of bundlers. Sen. Clinton should sign on. In the struggle to limit the influence of big money in politics, bundling, and public financing, should be next up for reform.