THE BLOG
08/31/2015 04:45 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2016

Donald Trump and Campaign Finance Reform

Some have recently commented that Donald Trump is the best thing that has happened to the campaign finance reform movement in years.

I disagree.

Donald Trump has made clear he has been a heavy user and beneficiary of the currently broken campaign finance system.

During the August 6th Republican debate, Trump correctly described the problems with the campaign finance system, using himself as an example:

I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I gave to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. And that's a broken system.

In making statements like this, Trump is challenging the campaign finance system with the same kind of language that campaign finance reform advocates have used for years.

But does this entitle Trump to be treated as a sinner who has seen the light? I don't think so.

Trump is using these statements as a weapon to attack his Republican primary opponents and the individual candidate Super PACs that are spending unlimited money to support them. But there is no evidence that Trump himself is a reformed sinner interested in fixing the system.

Trump hasn't shown any serious interest in supporting and advocating the kind of comprehensive campaign finance reforms that are essential to fixing our corrupt system. See for example the comprehensive reform agenda proposed earlier this year by 12 national reform organizations.

Furthermore, I am not aware of any indication that billionaire Trump has given that, if not elected president, he will stop his past practice of using his wealth to buy political influence.

Trump is also currently being supported by Make America Great Again PAC, an individual candidate Super PAC that raises unlimited contributions. In July, Trump attended a big donor fundraising event for this Super PAC backing him.

The Super PAC supporting Trump operates just like the Super PACs supporting his opponents, yet Trump has been attacking his opponents for their Super PACs and the big contributions they receive.

Trump has said he would "take big contributors as long as they don't expect anything." According to Trump, "The only people that can expect something from me is going to be the people that want to see our country be great again."

But in making this claim, Trump is saying the same thing that politicians have said forever - that they will not be influenced by large contributions.

History has shown that claim to be wrong and until two months ago Trump also thought it was wrong since he was giving money to influence politicians.

Congress and the Supreme Court have rejected this reasoning as well. Congress has enacted limits on large contributions to candidates after concluding they were necessary to prevent opportunities for corruption and the appearance of corruption. The Supreme Court upheld these limits for the same reasons.

Furthermore, Trump himself is evidence of one of the big problems with our current campaign finance system - the ability of a billionaire to spend huge amounts of his personal wealth to
seek public office. This kind of huge financial advantage that a billionaire like Trump has in running for office is unhealthy and wrong for our democracy.

Donald Trump has received the highest negative ratings from the American people of any presidential candidate running in 2016. This does not exactly make him a credible messenger for advancing the cause of campaign finance reform.

The bottom line: Donald Trump should not be viewed as a credible or helpful messenger for the campaign finance reform movement since he is not supporting and promoting the comprehensive campaign finance reforms essential to repairing the system, he is raising money for and receiving support from the same kind of individual candidate Super PAC that he is attacking his opponents for using, and he is asking the public to trust him on faith that, unlike other politicians, Trump can receive big money contributions without being influenced.