In recent days, supporters of George W. Bush have repeatedly hammered away at their talking points accusing John McCain of being a hypocrite. They note that McCain talks about getting the special-interest money out of politics but collects hordes of it himself thanks to his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. They note that McCain talks about smashing the iron triangle of money, legislation, and lobbyists but has corporate lobbyists working on his campaign.
These complaints are a bit rich coming from a campaign that has not only opted out of the primary spending caps in order to raise far more special-interest money than McCain can even dream about but also invented an impressive new way to put the arm on corporate contributors. But the charges are absolutely hilarious coming from Bush backer Haley Barbour. Here’s what Barbour had to say on CNN the other night: “Sen. McCain holds himself out to be Mr. Campaign Finance Reform … but when it comes to the law applying to his own campaign, he evades the law, cheats on the limits, spends four times the limit.”
When it comes to evading the law, Barbour, formerly the chairman of the Republican National Committee and now a lobbyist-for-hire, is no slouch his own self. Flash back to the Thompson Committee investigation of 1997. One the most amazing tales to emerge from those hearing was the story of how Barbour ripped off a trusting Chinese businessman named Ambrous Young on behalf of the RNC. Al Gore only went to California to shake the Asian money tree. Barbour traveled all the way to Hong Kong. When called to testify about the episode, Barbour transparently lied about it and subsequently narrowly escaped indictment.
I don’t think the Bush campaign will get very far accusing the GOP’s leading campaign-finance reformer of going overboard in raising money. It’s simply the pot calling the kettle black. But if the Bushies want to claim that John McCain is fat and pink, they might try getting someone other than Porky Pig to say it.