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1999 Article Raises Questions About Harold Ford’s Stance On Corporate Cash In Political Campaigns

01/24/09-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
When Comedian Jon Stewart took on Kieth Olbermann this past Wednesday over Olbermann’s rather heated Special Comment regarding Senator Scott Brown (he later went on to agree with Stewart about his tone of late), Stewart made a very strong point about Northern Republicans. To much of the country, a Northern Republican would be a “Gay Democrat.” In many ways, he is right. Republicans in the North tend to be far more to the Left of the national party than Southern Republican, and many Northern Republicans tend to have more in common with Southern Democrats than either group does with the whole either party. Harold Ford, however, appears to be a Southern Democrat trying to move into a Northern Democratic state. A 1999 Memphis Flyer article on Harold Ford’s speech to a local rotary club stated:

“Up there was a fresh-pressed yuppie-looking congressman talking up the flat tax, charter schools, pay-as-you-go economics, and conditional tax cuts. He advocated a lifting of the ban on campaign donations from corporations, bragged on former congressman Bob Livingston, a Louisiana Republican who “would have been one heck of a Speaker” had he not resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct, and criticized the Clinton administration for the weakness of its foreign policy.”

Many of the issues that Ford covered in that speech showed a tack to the Right. The same article describes Ford as having always been among the ranks of the liberal urban Democrats. He was running on many issues including private school vouchers, a favorite of the Republican Party, and, of course, lifting the ban on corporate campaign donations. Of course, of late, Ford has begun to respin his credentials to sound more like a Liberal New York Democrat trying to sound like he is more liberal on issues such as marriage equality than he has in the past. While Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has moved genuinely towards the left on LGBT issues, she has maintained a lot of her previously held views on fiscal responsibility. Her views very strongly represent the views of the whole of New York.

While lifting the ban on corporations directly buying ads supporting their candidate may or may not have any real effect since the corporations might end up having some major problems with voter backlash, lifting the ban on campaign donations directly to the candidate, which Ford appears to have been supporting, would create an even more problematic situation where Congressional politicians would not only feel sympathy towards a corporation, but feel absolutely beholden to them for the money that flows into their coffers. At least with advertisement, the corporations have to put their name on it. Only the most dedicated pour through campaign donor lists.

While Gillibrand may be open slightly to accusations of following the political wind, Ford is open to that even more. Gillibrand has moved towards the center and left on social issues, but not on fiscal issues. Ford, unfortunately, seems to have gone back and forth across that ideological divide depending upon how the electorate was feeling at the time. In 1997, he was largely opposed to the positions he took in 1999, and a decade later, he appears to be in favor of those things that he was opposed to after being in favor of them.

Currently, Ford has not explained his feelings regarding campaign finance reform.

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