The Romney '47 Percent' Video's Real Scandal

The real issue behind the Romney "47 percent" video is the way candidates must run their campaigns.

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Mitt Romney has drawn a lot of attention for his remarks at a private Boca Raton fundraiser, during which the candidate said 47 percent of the country—those who don't pay federal income tax—see themselves as "victims."

There are indeed victims whose status is exposed in the video, obtained and released by my friend David Corn for Mother Jones. But the victims are the voters and even the candidates. And the perpetrator is the campaign finance system and laws.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

Many have found it difficult to feel any sympathy for Romney after listening to his remarks about lower-income voters. There he was, at a fancy event attended by people who paid $50,000 a plate for the privilege. But the real scandal here is that those donors—and the category applies to Obama donors as well—have access to a candidate and seem to think they can advise a candidate for no other reason than the fact that they have an extra $50,000 to throw around.

Fundraising is tiresome and often humiliating for candidates. It's particularly bad for members of Congress, who have to spend hours and hours—time they would rather spend doing their actual jobs—going to receptions and making phone calls, begging for money just so they can keep those jobs. The worse is the time they have to spend at party campaign committee headquarters, sitting in a carrel and calling people up and asking for donations. It's like having to ask your parents for your allowance, even though you're a grown person with a shared responsibility for everything from going to war to determining the future of Medicare.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

The presidential candidates have it worse, since they have to raise a great deal more cash, and have the opportunity—and curse—of being able to hit up people for massive donations they can make to the party (thus averting donation limits for cash to the candidate's own campaign). They have to stand there, answering stupid questions and nodding thoughtfully at some idiotic piece of advice delivered by someone with little or no understanding of politics—and perhaps little or no understanding of the lives of people who don't have $50,000 to attend a candidate event. The dinners are inherently distasteful by definition, since their very premise suggests that having money makes someone qualified to tell potential presidents what to do.

Romney's taking some hits for his blunt remarks, which offended some people. We should all be offended by the fact he had to be there at all.

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