In the 2000 election against Diane Feinstein, Tim W. Ferguson, writing for The American Spectator's May issue, wrote a profile of Tom Campbell. This selection focuses on taxation and spending.
For this campaign he is touting a ranking from the National Taxpayers Union that shows him to be the biggest foe of spending in Congress. The full range of NTU scores over his interrupted tenure in the House paints him in a less libertarian light, actually a rather middling one by most ratings. But in a body that has, under GOP rule, disgraced itself in its handling of the public purse, it is hard to know how much stock to put in floor votes. Suffice to say Campbell is a soft touch for richer-to-poorer transfers but seems to abhor pork. (Recalling his fallout with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, he says it wasn't personal ethics problems but Gingrich's forcing in funds for the Lockheed C-130 transport, in contravention of budget guidelines, that soured the Caucus on its leader.) He has a "balanced-budget" approach to controlling government. But he has backed expansions of federal power in environmental, employment, and consumer law.
A disillusioned early supporter, Northern California hotel entrepreneur Ellis Alden, frets that his onetime prince is consumed with the political climb and "wants to be in a position of power to rule on other people's lives. "
The tax issues are part of what has set Alden off, and they're another briar patch. Although opposed to government efforts to control content or restrict encryption, Campbell is showing his customary independence in opposing sales-tax exemption for the Internet--shrugging off the interest of his constituent industry as well as of one of his party's best political weapons. He does it by saying that responsibility requires a tax base sufficient to meet the expectations of government, and that he is applying logic and fairness to allocating the burden.
To his critics, this is quintessential Campbell: Olympian and deaf to political tones, namely the best wedge for tax relief in sight. (There's also an economic efficiency case made for a tax-free Internet by Gary Becker and others: that it forces states and localities to rationalize and reduce their sales levies.) But Campbell has always been idiosyncratic on taxes, mixing realism (you'll never get rid of real-estate breaks) with populism (the rich should pay more) and a growth orientation (cut capital gains levies). Hence he's against the flat tax--he regrettably badgered Herschensohn over this-- and favors a big federal sales tax instead. Again, this is Campbell: a big, bold righteous stand, and an apparent political lemon. One camp of libertarians--for instance, Ed Crane at the Cato Institute--also advocates this, believing it to be the only way to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service as well as the silver bullet to redress the investment-consumption imbalance that is aching at the American soul. Yet as political realists point out, not only is this a big rock to push up the popularity hill toward a majority in Congress, but even if you got there, you'd still have the 16th Amendment to repeal. Hopeless.