Steve Hess is a presidential expert at Brookings and a decent guy.
Hess' expertise includes elections, media, political campaigns, political parties, politics, the presidency, and White House organization. But if you look closely, you might believe something else. Hess worked for Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford with a brief stint in the Carter Administration to help reorganize the executive office.
Hess offered this wisdom to McQuillan who promptly perverted it by putting it in the context of his article, "…long ago Gore has been tarnished by the whole campaign finance business and his Boy Scout image has been skewed." Hess went on, "Gore and Clinton almost single-handedly destroyed the campaign finance system that was put in place after Watergate," Hess added. "They did it by finding a loophole in the law … and driving a Mack truck through it."
What Hess forgot to mention, conveniently or not , and that which he defended again to me this morning, in what I consider a benign lapse of his memory, is that it was the Republican National Committee that first discovered the "loophole" and used it effectively , along with other more 'dastardly' means to rake in huge amounts of money from unsuspecting "donors" and "laundries" as early as 1979. The RNC tactics were methods that the DNC only dreamed about in those days. During the Reagan years the DNC did not even have a computer system. But the RNC was drowning in high-tech goodies and armed with a virtual candy store of purposely "designed to mislead" voter-targeted accouterment — the stuff of campaign mega-cash.
So when Hess says what he says here, think about the messenger. He's a 64 year old scholar and a man whose work is admirable, but the "loophole" he suggests is not a loophole at all, but instead it's the law of the land as interpreted by the Federal Election Commission and more than one judge. While Clinton/Gore '96 may have driven a Mack Truck through it, readers should know that the Dole and the RNC must then have followed in 747!
And by the way, I know. I was trained at the Presidential level by the ultra-private RNC presidential campaign college in Virginia under the aegis of then Senator John Heinz. I spent months after that with the RNC up on First Street putting together mailing lists of wealthy Jews with a protégé' of Kit Bond's to be used for money-mining from that traditional Democrat voting and funding bloc. The "outreach" program — as the RNC called it in those days– was very effective with Jews and many flocked to dump money into the Reagan '80 and the re-election campaign as well as the Republican House and Senate campaign committees.
The "Outreach" effort with American Blacks did not do so well.