Skip to comments.Noxious reform
Posted on 02/15/2002 8:17:51 PM PST by kattracks
Whatever you do, don't tune out on the issue of campaign finance reform because it seems complex or esoteric. The House's passage of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill portends deep trouble for this constitutional republic.
This legislation is outrageous for many reasons (some to follow), but it is also illustrative of the poisonous effects of the ongoing war against the plain meaning of words in our culture.
What do I mean? Well, one of the main provisions in the bill prohibits groups from running advertisements that merely refer to a clearly identified candidate within 60 days of a general election and 30 days of a primary (and that reach an audience that includes voters in that election).
Why is this provision so important to reformers? You would assume that its purpose would be to prevent corruption in politics caused by campaign contributions, since that is the main impetus for campaign-finance reform. But, no, the ostensible aim of the provision is to prevent the use of last-minute negative ads against political candidates. And what are negative ads?
Here's where the distortion of the English language comes into play. You would think negative ads would be those that trash a candidate personally, such as the Gore campaign's deliberate release of the DWI allegation against George Bush the last weekend before the presidential election. So surely Shays-Meehan would outlaw such chicanery. Sorry, that's not what they mean by negative.
What they mean is that you can't inform voters about a candidate's position on any issues within the last 30 or 60 days of a campaign if you refer to that candidate by name. So, for example, if a group of concerned citizens wants to inform voters that a candidate is flagrantly nonchalant about the Second Amendment, it will only be allowed to do so prior to the final 60 days of the general election. It should be underscored that these 60 days are probably the only time during which most voters are really tuned in to election issues.
Can someone please tell me how it is negative to inform voters about a candidate's stand on the issues? Excuse this optimist's momentary lapse into cynicism, but the upshot of this provision will be to proliferate rather than limit corruption. Why? Because it will permit candidates and the media to lie about their record without fear of contradiction by issue ads. When you outlaw one of the main vehicles for informing the voters, you gravely undermine the democratic process.
But don't worry. The media will still be able to speak out without restriction because these regulations don't apply to them. While some will bend over backward to bring balance to the equation, i.e., ensuring that both sides will get a fair hearing, most of the other national print and TV media will be giving you their unchecked spin. Welcome to their America, where everyone has equal free speech rights, but the media are more equal than others.
It also bears repeating that this do-gooder bill will not pass constitutional muster absent a radical change in existing Supreme Court precedent. In Buckley vs. Valeo, the Court ruled that only express advocacy for the election or defeat of a particular candidate could be regulated, but that mere references to a candidate could not. Congress may think that it has closed a soft-money legislative loophole with this bill, but it has done nothing to bridge this cosmic constitutional fissure. Congress has just abrogated its independent duty to ensure that the legislation it passes is constitutional.
The reformers' rallying cry is that political money corrupts so inevitably and universally that it is not even necessary to prove this corruption in individual cases. Yet these very same zealots absolutely bristle at the suggestion that the Clinton administration was compromised by illegal Chinese contributions generally or even by the specific relaxations of national security that appear to have been engineered as a direct result of these contributions.
The moral to emerge from the bill is that if you shout loud and long enough you will eventually prevail especially if a scandal such as Enron serendipitously comes along that you can opportunistically use to catalyze your cause. If logic were operative in our political culture, Enron would have been one of the death knells of the campaign finance reform movement, because it undermines its driving axiom that political contributions necessarily corrupt.
We can only hope that this odious bill meets its demise in the Senate or through presidential veto.
David Limbaugh is author of Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department.
Contact David Limbaugh
©2002 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Then Bush will sign it, thank the Dems for cooperating and bipartisanship, and the liberal media with their new huge powers will help the Rats defeat Bush in 2004.
No, the purpose is to ensure that politicians can rape conservatives in the 60 days prior to an election without anyone being able to buy space in the media to let the public know what they actually did. The media can use the law an an excuse when they refuse to sell time or space.
Until and unless the dirty money is taken out of elections only the special interests will have any real input into the governance of this country.
Nearly all "dirty money" in politics stems from two things: (1) a willingness (if not eagerness) for politicians to "give away" taxpayers' money if they think it will help their career, and (2) the eagerness of many politicians to have the government cripple businesses that don't provide them suitable support.
The problem is not that people and businesses can give money to politicians, but is rather that politicians use unconstitutional means of pressuring others to give them money and/or votes. When the real problem is a government that has taken too much power upon itself already, giving that same government more power does not seem like a wise solution.
Right. Of course, politicians will be free to wait off on passing the bad stuff until they're in the "safe harbor" window, so nobody would be able to mention their conduct during the legally-allowed time since the politicians' shameful conduct wouldn't have happened YET.
On the other hand, given the NRA's silence surrounding the passage of the Lautenberg Act (the most eggregiously unconstitutional bunch of junk to date, which passed less than two months before the 1996 elections!) I'm not sure all that much would really be changed...
Sorry, but conservatives have a right to be nuts.
This "campaign-finance reform" bill is all about keeping left-wing incumbents in power while squashing the voices of grass-roots conservative and groups.
The problem that no one is addressing is the campaign limits themselves. Candidates should be able to raise as much money as they feel like it so as long as there's full disclosure and none of the money is from foreign sources.
Actually the WSJ in April said just the opposite. Seems that Bush raised $100 million in "hard money" far more than the democrats. They seemed it would actually benefit the Republicans more than the Democrats. They didn't believe it was constitutional. I think the Supremes will come down somewhere in the middle.
I believe you will find that the "media" is much less effective than believed. The American voter (the ones who actually vote) know all they need to know well in advance of the 60 day cutoff period. The trash advertisements that now come are really a period of disinformation. That doesn't serve democracy very well.
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You are so misguided, it would be funny if it weren't so sad. The words "Congress shall make no law..." are clear, its just that people like you don't give a crap.
Uh, Mr Jefferson, Richard W. says you're a wing nut because you think the idea of submitting political speech to the government for pre approval is the road toward totalitarianism.
Mr Jefferson: #$$%^%#@$%^^
Yeah. It's all a lot of hogwash. The Bill of Rights is hogwash. Who cares.
This is a mischaracterization of what I said and you know it. The idea is get the sewer money out of politics so that in the fog of campaigning the truth isn't a casualty and the politicians are not beholden to the special interests. Besides, what do you have to fear anyway? Everyone, or nearly everyone, here seems to believe that the Supremes will knock this legislation down anyway. Let's test it and find out; shall we?
The idea that you will not be free to express your political views is absurd on its face.
Looks to me like we already have that. In any given election year about 95% of the House of Representatives are guaranteed reelection. Am I wrong?
Its what the bill says Richard, did you read it? Ads will have to be submitted to the government. Comprende?
As for what I'm worried about, its people like you who have no idea what they are talking about supporting crap that they haven't read. Thats what worries me Richard.
Read the bill Richard and then read the first amendment. You're clueless.
How can the American voter know all they need to know before the 60-day cutoff period if politicians can wait until after that period starts before raping conservatives?
How about combining that 60-day cutoff period with a 90-day cutoff period for politicians passing any new legislation to ensure that there's a 30-day window during which any new legislation can be made known to the public?
I don't buy this argument. The liberals are screaming that they will be screwed. Since both are saying essentially the same thing it looks like a good piece of legislation. This notion that the "liberal media" controls the public mood is a fiction. Dan Rather and his ilk are known for their bias and the American public knows it. Anything they are for I am against and vice-versa.
What I do know is that sewer money is influencing elections well beyond the voter base of the congressional districts. Only the well-heeled and primarily one-issue groups are heard. Additionally, the advertisements are designed to obscure the origin of the backers and manipulate the facts regarding the candidates true views. The average voter is left holding the bag. Everyone knows this down deep. Money = election victory.
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