[star]The American Mind[star]

October 02, 2006

What Hath McCain-Feingold Wrought?

Campaign finance "reformers" want to limit campaign spending and hold politicians more accountable. To them political speech and the money that buys the ads required to advance a message in our high-powered media age "corrupt" government. But what has the campaign finance reform First Amendment restriction law actually done? Radio yappers have been sued, concerned citizens have to keep detailed donation records, newspapers have been shut down, and political activists need permission from federal courts to run ads naming Senators and Congressmen. George Will reports on what's happening in Washington State:

When the state's government imposed a 9.5-cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur of station KVI began advocating repeal by initiative. Proponents of repeal put up a Web site, hoping to raise 1,000 volunteers and $25,000. In two days they had 6,500 and $87,000. Needing 224,880 signatures to put repeal on the ballot, they got 400,996.

Appalled by this outburst of grass-roots democracy, some local governments, which stood to gain many millions from the tax, unleashed a law firm that would gain substantially from handling the bond issues the tax would finance. The firm set out to muzzle Carlson and Wilbur, using the state's campaign regulations.

It got a judge to rule that the broadcasters were not just supporters of the repeal campaign, they were agents of it. Why, they had even used the pronoun "we" when referring to proponents of repeal. Their speech constituted political advertising, and their employer was making an "in-kind contribution" to the repeal campaign. The judge said a monetary value must be placed on their speech (he did not say how, he just said to do it that day). The law says reports must be filed and speech limits obeyed or fines imposed.

State law restricts to $5,000 the amount a single giver can contribute in the three weeks before an initiative. If Carlson's and Wilbur's speech were monetized at radio-advertising rates, they would be silenced for all but about 15 minutes in each of the campaign's crucial last three weeks. They continued to talk (the repeal campaign, outspent almost five to one, lost 54.6-45.4) and, aided by the libertarian litigators of the Institute for Justice, have taken the issue to the state Supreme Court.

Will writes, "As a result, attempts to use campaign regulations to silence opponents are becoming a routine part of vicious political combat." Just ask Rep. Mark Green. Such tactics are the cornerstone to Gov. Doyle's re-election campaign.

Thanks, President Bush.

First, it's the commercials, then radio talkers, then the local newspapers. As the internet becomes more influential and important in the mediasphere websites and webloggers (professional and amateur) will be the next targets. Sen. John McCain would love to silence the DailyKos crowd if he nabs the GOP Presidential nomination just like Sen. Russ Feingold would love to shut up Matt Drudge.

Blue Crab Boulevard writes about the ominous time we now live in:

This is the disaster that McCain-Feingold hath wrought. This is what the men who would be president think of your right to say what you want politically. There is a horrible stifling effect here where people can be silenced by creative application of campaign laws. We are headed down an ugly road - and everyone, left or right should be frightened by this. Far from being the way the left will gain power. In the long run this will be the tool that crushes them.

It is wrong, whichever side advocates it. And it will be the downfall of this country in the long run.

Campaign speech restriction isn't about Left or Right; it's about right and wrong. It's about the right to unfettered political speech and how wrong it is for McCain, Feingold, and the "reformers" (with plenty of help from President Bush) to squelch it.

"Speechless in Seattle"

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Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Politics at 03:56 AM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (0)