Scott Tibbs
Published by the Hoosier Project, 07-10-2001

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There's just too much speech out there!

The U.S. House of Representatives is prepared to pass "campaign finance reform" this week and send it to the Senate, in a display of how our elected representatives don't trust the intelligence of the American people to participate in the political process without Big Government restricting them.

Both Republicans and Democrats are complaining about those "awful" issue ads that criticize candidates in the weeks leading up to an election, and even some in the Republican leadership are saying we need to "do something" about these ads. In an amazingly arrogant assault on our free speech rights, Congress is actually considering legislation that would ban issue advocacy groups from mentioning a candidate's name within 60 days of an election. There goes the ability of the National Rifle Association to take out an advertisement criticizing an incumbent Congressman for voting to take away our right to keep and bear arms. The ability of pro-life groups to criticize incumbents with pro-abortion voting records will also disappear.

The "60-day censorship rule", as I like to call it, is a blatantly unconstitutional attack on the First Amendment. What our politicians want to do is criminalize the CONTENT of someone's speech. The proponents of "campaign finance reform" say that if the American people "pay attention" to the debate then it will pass. Perhaps it would be better argued that if the American people were paying attention, this issue would have never even been considered in the first place, assuming they aren't totally ignorant of the Constitution. (And considering the majority of adults cannot even locate the U.S. on a map, that's a big assumption.)

Conservative critics of "campaign finance reform" have called McCain-Feingold the "incumbent protection act", and this is a big reason why. If this passes and is not struck down by the courts, issue groups will not be able to inform voters how their Congressman or Senator voted on issues of importance to them. Perhaps this is why this provision is so popular among Washington elitists, as they can vote against their constituents' interests without being bothered by pesky things like "accountability".

Congress is also considering passing an outright ban on "soft money", donations to political parties used for party-building activities or issue ads. This would be a big handicap to principled public servants like U.S. Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN), who refuses to accept special interest PAC money. Hostettler, who is consistently outspent by his challengers despite his incumbent status, would be hard-pressed to raise needed campaign funds without help from his party, even though he raises the majority of his campaign funds through small contributions from individual donors.

Ann Coulter pointed out in her June 28 column that it's absurd to treat contributions from political parties to candidates the same as individual donations because getting candidates elected is "what parties do". A political party would contribute to it's candidates not to "buy influence" with them (as the Chinese military illegally did with contributions to disgraced Ex-President Clinton), but to get more of their own elected.

Interestingly enough, the Washington elitists who claim to be "protecting" democracy for the little guy don't mention what a "soft money" ban would do to him. How effective would the Libertarian, Constitution, or Green parties be nationally if they could not raise money for party-building activities? Perhaps the blow "campaign finance reform" would strike against minor parties is another reason so many Democrats and Left-leaning Republicans support it. After all, if the Greens chop of Democrat votes, it could cost them a victory, and the Libertarians chopping off Republican votes can cost the GOP a victory.

In addition, incumbent Congressmen and Senators have quite an advantage over their challengers. They have the name identification from media coverage of their activity in Washington, and they have a decided advantage in fundraising over their challengers. It's very rare to find an incumbent like John Hostettler who is consistently outspent by his challengers. Incumbents also have franking privileges, constituent service responsibilities, and the ability to bring pork back to their districts, all of which buys votes. If "campaign finance reform" is passed, it will enhance the power of the Washington elite while damaging the ability of opposition to remove them.

The bottom line is that Leftists in both parties don't trust the American people to participate in the electoral process, individually or collectively, so they have to pass lots of laws restricting our ability to do so. The fact that these Big Government regulations benefit INCUMBENTS is icing on the cake. President George W. Bush was elected on the premise that he trusts the people more than he trusts the government. If that is truly the case, he will veto "campaign finance reform".

Stand-up comedian Gallagher once said that "con is the opposite of pro, so Congress must be the opposite of progress." In terms of safeguarding our freedom, that is certainly true!