Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
Here's the RSS feed or subscribe to our FFF Email Update to receive Hornberger’s Blog daily.

Mueller Is Hoisting Trump on Trump’s Own Petard


While Trump critics, especially those in the mainstream press, are going gaga over special counsel Robert Mueller’s allegations that the president has supposedly committed a grave, impeachable crime consisting of campaign-finance violations, they naturally are blinding themselves to the utter inanity of a system of campaign-finance regulations. But Trump and his Republican allies have no standing to complain because they are as fervent supporters of a highly regulated campaign-finance system as Democrats.

Think about the original idea behind campaign-finance laws. They were supposedly intended to prevent “big money” from influencing political candidates. The idea was to limit the amount of money that anyone could give to a particular candidate so that people with “big money” wouldn’t have inordinate influence over public officials.

The obvious question arises for both Democrats andRepublicans: How’s that system working out for you all? Because it sure seemsto me that there is still lots of “big money” that is playing a major role in influencingthe behavior of political candidates.

Notice something important: Under campaign-finance laws, rich candidates can spend as much as they want in their own campaigns. In other words, they are free to “donate” any amount of their own money to their own campaigns.

That little rule obviously provides a tremendous benefit to rich people who wish to run for public office, people like Trump. Poor people are limited to securing relatively small donations from lots of people to have a hope of competing against the rich elites.

Now, imagine if there were no campaign-finance laws. That would mean that poor candidates could secure large donations — like million-dollar donations — from just a few people, people who believed in their ideas, philosophy, and proposals.

What’s the difference between a rich candidate spending $5 million of his own money and a poor candidate spending $5 million donated by five rich people? In principle, there is no difference at all.

There is another thing that comes with a system of campaign-finance regulations, as Trump is now discovering — the ability to go after candidates for violating this or that regulation. That’s the beauty of a regulated society, from the standpoint of government officials. They know that there is no way for anyone to be in strict compliance with all the regulations. Over time, the regulatory system becomes so complex that it is inevitable that a candidate is going to violate one or another of the regs at any given time. Whenever government officials want to, they can say, “Gotcha!” and the candidate is then expected to express guilt and shame, apologize, and beg forgiveness for his regulatory transgression.

Mueller’s Ahab-like pursuit of Trump is a classic example.Let’s not forget Mueller’s original mandate: to determine if Trump “colluded”with Russia to win the election. Colluding with America’s Cold War enemy is still considered a grave crime, even though no law has ever been enacted that officially makes Russia an official enemy. Everyone is just supposed to know that, just as Oceanans were expected to know that Eastasia or Eurasia were official enemies at various times.

Perhaps having difficulty coming up with evidence establishing criminal “collusion” between Trump and Russia or perhaps just to hedge his collusion bets, Mueller has obviously headed off in a safe direction — finding some campaign-finance regulatory violation on which to hang his hat. What does he come up with? That Trump paid hush money to two women in an attempt to keep their mouths shut about alleged sexual affairs with Trump.

So, we start out with a campaign-finance law whose intent is to prevent rich people from influencing candidates through large donations. From there, we leap to hush money being paid to women to cover up sexual affairs considered as a large donation being made to a candidate.

That’s rich. That’s the power of interpretation when it comes to regulations. Like I say, that’s the value of a regulated society. Whenever they want, they can find anyone guilty of something.

Of course, the same principle is true with the income tax. There is a reason why the IRS Code is several inches thick with millions of tax rules and regulations. It enables them to go after anyone they want whenever they want. They know that no one, and especially not rich businessmen, can ever be in compliance with every single tax regulation, especially since there are multiple interpretations possible with each regulation.

That’s in fact why the mainstream press continues to champ at the bit to get a hold of Trump’s income-tax returns. They’ve got a team of high-priced tax lawyers and accountants standing by, ready to scour Trump’s returns and find some tax violation on which to charge him.

There is but one solution to all this regulatory and tax inanity — ditch campaign-finance laws and leave people free to do whatever they want with their own money, and ditch the income tax, IRS, and IRS Code and leave people free to keep everything they earn.

Of course, that’s the last thing that Trump and his fellow Republicans would ever do. They believe in this regulatory and tax nonsense as much as Democrats do. Thus, it is poetic justice that Trump is being hoisted on his own campaign-finance petard by special counsel Robert Mueller.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.