About the Author
Opinion Archives
E-mail Scott
Scott's Links

"Campaign finance reform" goes too far

By Scott Tibbs, August 24, 2004

George Will writes; that "campaign finance reform" may have a bigger effect than just serving to stifle political speech. An automobile dealership may be forced to suspend advertising during the biggest sales period of the year... because it shares the name of its founder, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Thus the effort to "get money out of politics" takes away freedom one step at a time. Not only does McCain-Feingold regulate the content of political speech by interest groups, it may actually prohibit commercial speech that is in no way intended to influence the outcome of an election.

John McCain and Russ Feingold should be ashamed of themselves. The Supreme Court should as well, after they somehow managed to "interpret" the command that "Congress shall make no law" restricting the freedom of speech to mean that Congress is permitted to regulate the content of political speech. Now the architect of this travesty may benefit from it... at the cost of innocent people's jobs.

And what of Indiana's Ninth Congressional District? Baron Hill voted for "campaign finance reform" as well. Will Mike Sodrel be forced to replace the mud flaps on his fleet of semi trucks that bear his name? Is it permissable for a business that bears Sodrel's name to advertise during the campaign season?


Update: August 24, 2004

More on "CFR": It is true that there have been "time, place and manner" restrictions on speech for a long time. The most common example is that you cannot shout "fire" in a crowded theatre.

You also cannot have campaign materials within a certain distance of a polling place. I'm not convinced this is a necessary, as voters presumable are adults who are intelligent enough not to be swayed by someone wearing a "Bob for Congress" t-shirt. In Indiana, it is somewhat laughable anyway, considering that polling places traditionally have campaign yard signs placed in front of them before the polls open.

The Supreme Court has held that "time, place and manner" restrictions are acceptable and do not violate the First Amendment. But the difference between "time, place and manner" restrictions and McCain-Feingold is that MF regulates the content of political speech. An issue advocacy group is prohibited from mentioning the name of a candidate within 60 days of the general election or 30 days of a primary election.

I still find it amazing that people actually support this travesty. Congress literally passed a law to prohibit citizens (or groups of citizens) from criticizing their record close to an election, when people are paying the most attention. But because it was done in the name of "taking money out of politics", many on the Left support what is clearly (no matter what the Supreme Court says) unconstitutional.

What is really bad about the case Will mentioned is that MF may actually prohibit commercial advertising that has nothing to do with a political campaign. In the name of "getting money out of politics", "campaign finance reform" is prohibiting a business from advertising at the most important time of the year for sales. My, what compassion the Left has!

Jefferson Davis, the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, said: "A question settled by violence, or in disregard of law, must remain unsettled forever." In the case of "campaign finance reform", Davis' words ring more true than ever.


Update: August 30, 2004

On a message board I frequent, one poster claimed that the ban on issue advertising falls within the permitted "time, place and manner" restrictions on free speech because the "time" is 60 days before and election and the "place" is television or radio.

"An issue advocacy group is prohibited from mentioning the name of a candidate within 60 days of the general election or 30 days of a primary election." Sounds like time to me, ST.
This is a silly argument. Time, place and manner restrictions are permissible so long as they are reasonable. Banning all "issue advertising" within 60 days of an election is certainly not reasonable. Furthermore, the key here is that Congress did not ban all "issue advertisements", only those that mention a candidate's name. That is a restriction on the content of political speech, which is not permitted by the Constitution.

The class warfare tactics of the Left have worked wonders in the debate over "campaign finance reform". By framing this as a matter of "getting money out of politics", and whining about the "wealthy" special interest groups that can afford to run issue ads, Congress has obscured a very important issue. The fact of the matter is that Congress passed a law prohibiting citizens from criticizing them within two months of the general election, when people are paying the most attention to political ads. What is amazing is that there is no popular outcry at this example of Congressional arrogance.

Update: August 30, 2004

More on "campaign finance reform" and its limitations on issue advertisements:

What, exactly, is "harmful" about mentioning a candidate's name in an issue ad within two months of an election? What harm does it do to our electoral process to publicly criticize a candidate or elected official for votes they have cast or positions they have taken?

The Left has fooled into drinking the Kool-Aid by promises of making sure the "rich" don't have undue influence. As if, in this society, millions of people don't have the option of taking an opposite position, in letters to the editor, on the Internet, etc. As if "wealthy special interest groups" on the other side of the ideological spectrum don't have the option of taking out their own ads. As if average, everyday people don't have the option to pool their resources to put out their own ads. The issue here is that Congress restricted the content of political speech.

And yes, I am very dissapointed in President Bush for signing this abomination. I attributed MF to the Left because they were the driving force behind it. Some Republicans, unfortunately, caved in and voted for it. President Bush signed it even though he admitted there were constitutional problems with it.