Now the Money Race Begins

The first national election since the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law was passed stands to post record amounts of spending.

And both John Kerry and George Bush have opted out of the federal financing system that would have set limits on their campaign spending.

This presidential race is off to a bad start as each election cycle brings ever more money into campaigning.

Democrats, knowing they are at a financial disadvantage against Republicans, decided to alter the primaries to get an early front-runner and allow more time for fundraising. So far, the plan has worked, with Mr. Kerry given more time to match the expected Bush war chest of some $200 million.

While the truncated primary season denied a longer period for debate among candidates, it's worth noting that money wasn't the final arbiter of who would win the nomination. Early on, Howard Dean was the fundraising king. He broke new ground using the Internet. But his campaign showed it's one thing to raise cash on the Web and quite another to get voters to the polls.

Still, the loan that Kerry took out on his Boston mansion helped him through a rough period just before the Iowa caucuses in late January - just when a lot of pundits had counted him out.

Before McCain-Feingold, the political parties used to step in and give candidates a financial leg up between the primaries and the general election. They can no longer do so. For now, Democrats will have to rely on private political groups, united in defeating Bush, working largely on their own to raise money for TV ads, etc.

Over the years, various campaign-finance laws have stemmed the growth of money politics. Now, if only they could end it altogether.

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