Free speech is not harmful

By Scott Tibbs, March 12, 2004

Another day, another anti-freedom screed in the New York Times. This time, the Times is complaining of a "loophole" in McCain-Feingold, where independent Democratic or Republican groups can form Political Action Committees and attack (or praise) a candidate. Because these groups have no connection to President George W. Bush or Senator John Kerry, they are not covered under the ban on "soft money" in McCain-Feingold. Because they are PACs, they are allowed to run issue ads while other issue-advocacy groups are not.

Does anyone see the irony here? Newspapers like the Times depend on the First Amendment for their ability to stay in business, yet they argue for restrictions on political speech. Does the Times not realize that once a precedent is set for restrictions on speech, the media could be next? If "negative" campaign ads can be prohibited, then why not "negative" newspaper editorials? What about news reports that could be seen as "negative? What justification is there for regulating political speech in the form of an advertisement and not in the form of a newspaper? Is it not it true that newspaper editorials can be just as "negative" as campaign commercials?

What exactly is the Times' problem with political speech? How is political dialogue harmful? A group of like-minded individuals pool their resources to get their message out to the American people. They buy advertising time to amplify their message. A group from the other side of the political spectrum can then do the same thing. Give both sides to the American people, and let us make an informed decision about who to support.

The Times would fret about the "corrupting influence" of soft money going to these Political Action Committees, but is that a reason to restrict speech? No, it is not. The answer to the money in politics is full disclosure of campaign finances, by the political parties, Political Action Committees, and candidate campaign committees.

While the Times frets about loopholes in the McCain-Feingold Censorship Act, I worry more about "exceptions" to the First Amendment. The Constitution is the document on which our system of government is based. It ensures fundamental freedoms to the American people. If Congress and is allowed to pass laws restricting the very freedoms the Constitution is supposed to protect, we have a much bigger problem than "soft money".

The Orwellian nature of "campaign finance reform" is obvious. Congress actually passed a law that limits political speech criticizing them in the weeks leading up to an election. Congress said they did this for the "good" of the American people. Of course, they would never restrict what we can say about them simply because they want to get re-elected... or would they?

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