Matt ponders the irony of campaign-finance reform:

It's interesting that the result of not one but both major parties nominating presidential candidates known as process-oriented reformers has merely resulted in an usually large volume of campaign finance shenanigans -- from McCain illegally backing out of the system after having used public financing to secure a loan, to Obama wriggling out of a commitment to use public financing for the general election. I bet that two years ago, reformers would have told you that a McCain-Obama matchup would be great for their cause. In practice, it's turned out to be terrible.

And I think it's not a coincidence. McCain and Obama both feel they can take the hit on these issues in part because they're both branded as "reformers" and thus don't need to worry as much about being perceived as corrupt. Years ago, of course, McCain had a different reputation as a consequence of the Keating 5 business and became a reformer in part in order to change that reputation. But politicians who have the clean image can feel free to ditch process constraints whenever convenient.



This is no doubt part of what's going on, but of course the deeper reality is that the attempt to stringently regulate campaign spending is one of the more pointless and useless reformist causes in modern American politics - and one that matters so little to actual voters that even its purported champions can't be bothered to practice what they preach. It would be nice if the experience of actually running a competitive campaign for President persuaded McCain and Obama to repudiate their misguided positions on the issue. But that would mean losing the Broders of the world forever, so instead they'll just play the hypocrites.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.