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Friday, December 09, 2005

Dumping The First Amendment In Favor Of The Politicos

A great article in Reason. It is almost entirely a transcript of Bradley Smith's speech back in April about campaign finance reform. The issue is certainly timely.

I hope you'll read it all. Smith goes into great detail about the type of political speech which is being repressed and the type of speech that is being fostered:
In the legislative record there is considerable evidence that many supporters of McCain-Feingold specifically wanted the law to silence criticism of their own performance in office.
You can easily find quotes from across the political spectrum explaining why members of Congress find the speech of these citizen groups distasteful. But for brevity’s sake, let’s focus on Sen. McCain. These groups, he once said, “often run ads that the candidates themselves disapprove of.”
Sen. McCain went on: “Further, these ads are almost always negative attack ads, and do little to further beneficial debate and healthy political dialogue.”
But perhaps most important, campaign finance regulation is based on the notion that government must be empowered to act on and order the lives of citizens without influence or pushback from those very same citizens. The “reformers” believe that politics should be reserved for the folks inside the Beltway who can handle it.
What it comes down to is that the law favors people like George Soros and the well-organized political in-groups (such as lobbyists) and disfavors straightforward grass-roots political organization. The law fosters convoluted behind-the-scenes arrangements such as McCain's "Reform Institute" and prevents you from giving money to the candidate of your choice.

McCain-Feingold is explicitly and unambiguously unconstitutional, regardless of the judgment of the Supreme Court. No dingbat philosophy of "active liberty" can justify the restrictions on the individual's ability to speak, organize and petition the government for redress protected in the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
By turning campaign financing into a big-business type of arrangement, the influence of rich people is magnified and the ability of the private person to easily initiate a grass-roots political initiative is greatly restricted. I will not be voting for McCain for president.

If I feel like being charitable I can say that the bill was intended to level the playing field by taking away the advantage of big money groups in forwarding the message. The problem with trying to silence big money is, well, they have a lot of money, so they'll find a way around it. The end result is you squash everyone that doesn't have money, and strengthen the position of those that do. So you're left concluding either those that enacted it are stupid (I'm certainly willing to accept that) or they were trying to reduce the number of players in the game so it would be easier to control (I'm willing to accept that as well).

I can't come up with any scenario under which this is a good thing.
I think the camp is evenly divided between stupid and self-aggrandizing.

But I am not amused.
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