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On the Lighter Side

The Farce of Campaign Finance Reform:
An Assault on Liberty

by Donald A. Tevault

 


If you've been keeping up with the news about campaign finance reform, you've already heard about the particulars of the recently-passed campaign finance reform legislation. You've also heard about what's wrong with this legislation. Mainly, campaign finance reform as envisioned by the likes of McCain, Feingold, Shays and Meehan is blatantly unconstitutional. It's an egregious assault on the First Amendment guarantee of free political speech. It's also a near guarantee that incumbent members of Congress will always be safe from any challengers to their own re-election efforts. But, as I've said, you've probably already read the details of this legislation, so I won't repeat all of that here. This does beg the question, though, of how we as a country have gotten to this point. How can Congress get away with making such a blatant assault on the liberty of United States citizens? After all, wasn't this country founded on the principles of freedom and liberty? We can find answers by taking a brief look at history.

The Federalists, who advocated a strong central government, also wanted to prevent a return to tyranny. So, when they designed the Constitution, they included certain safeguards that would protect the citizens' liberty. The Anti-Federalists, though, were still dismayed. "This will never work", they said. "There simply aren't enough safeguards for the people's liberty, and the ones that are there won't work."

"Cato", "The Federal Farmer" and several other Anti-Federalist writers feared that there would arise in the land a class of ruling elites. The "Anti's" warned that these elites--in their attempts to amass power for themselves--would be willing to violate the Constitutional safeguards, and deprive citizens of liberty. For the most part, the "Anti's" lost the argument, and the Constitution was ratified. The "Anti's" did, however, succeed in getting a Bill of Rights added to the Constitution.

It has come to pass, that in this argument at least, the Anti-Federalists were correct. True, in the last few years, some Congressional candidates ran with the promise that they would voluntarily "term-limit" themselves, and would retire after only their second or third term. But, those are the rare cases. Indeed, we do have with us a class of arrogant career politicians--the ruling elite that the "Anti's" feared. Why do you suppose, that so many Congress-folk advocate welfare state programs, in which money is extorted from the higher wage-earners and given to the lower wage-earners? Could it be, that these Congress-folk want to buy the votes of the lower wage-earners, who are more numerous than the higher wage-earners? Why do you suppose that the federal government wants to control public education? Could it be, that the ruling elites want to prevent our children from learning about the principles of liberty and limited government, so as to further expand the elites' hold on power? But, I digress.

What we have seen with the campaign finance reform fiasco is an example of arrogant politicians flagrantly violating the safeguards of the Constitution. Now that President Bush has allowed this campaign finance reform bill to become law, there will be limits placed on how ordinary citizens like you and me--and any private groups that we may choose to represent us--can buy advertising before an election. This restriction is tantamount to a restriction on free speech, a clear violation of the First Amendment. The law would enhance the chances that an incumbent member of Congress would win re-election; it would help the ruling elite become more firmly entrenched than it now is.

But, if this law is such a clear violation of our rights, then why isn't there more of a public outcry against it? I believe it's because too many people in this country don't really care about politics, and don't pay enough attention to what goes on in Washington. Too many people don't understand either politics or basic civics. These people's votes are based on nebulous ideas of what government should be, on how many goodies the politicians can promise. Folk who are addicted to the teet of federal largesse aren't going to vote for anyone who believes in limited government. Big Government politicians, in turn, dole out even more goodies in their efforts to addict more voters to D.C.'s "compassion". Also, many voters don't understand what their rights are. The "free speech" clause in the First Amendment--referring to political speech--has been mis-interpreted to mean "free expression". Several years ago, here in Georgia and down in Florida, some strip-joint owners went to court to prevent the local governments from closing down their establishments. Their basis for the court cases? That the local governments were restricting young ladies' rights to "free expression" by preventing them from dancing nude before crowds of men.

So, these voters--who are satisfied as long as Big Government keeps increasing their hand-outs, who generally share a very small part of the tax burden and who don't understand the Constitution --either don't realize or don't care when arrogant politicians try to grab more power by limiting our legitimate Constitutional rights.

Of course, our esteemed Congress folk are telling the people that this law is desparately needed in order to clean up corruption. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the elites' myrmidons in the mainstream press will parrot the line. It'll all sound so soothing to the ill-informed masses of voters.

President Bush could do a great service by speaking out against this legislation. He could use his "bully pulpit" to help educate Americans on just what is going on. But, so far, he hasn't done that. That's a shame, for he too is abrogating his responsibility.



See also:

  • Stifling free speech
    Joseph Farah says new law already killing 1st Amendment.
  • Campaign finance law is a constitutional obscenity
    Two years ago President Bush, who had called it unconstitutional, signed the McCain-Feingold bill -- furtively, at 8 a.m. in the Oval Office. The law expanded government restrictions on political speech, ostensibly to combat corruption or the ``appearance'' thereof.
    by George Will
  • Campaign Finance Bill Destined for Supreme Court If It Becomes Law
    Supporters of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill said Friday that the First Amendment protection of free speech has its limits, and they expect proposed restrictions on political speech to survive Supreme Court challenges if the bill becomes law.
    By Jeff Johnson
  • The unadvertised effects of campaign reform
    The Club for Growth is an innocent name for what many people would regard as a sinister special interest that tries to affect the decisions of federal lawmakers.
    by Steve Chapman
  • Campaign finance change not 'reform'
    Campaign finance reformers have had their way in Washington, which should keep them content--or at least muted--for maybe two years. But what will they attempt when next they announce, as they did this time, that the system they have created is scandalous and again needs their purifying touch? Events in Arizona suggest an answer.
    by George Will
  • GOP Greases Skids to Sink Campaign Finance Bill
    The bill that many House liberals called a Valentine's Day present to the American people may quickly be stamped "return to sender" if it is delivered to President Bush for his signature.
    By Jeff Johnson


    • Adv.--Dependent on DC: The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans
      by Charlotte Twight


      Americans have been seduced into surrendering their autonomy by an ever-growing federal government, contends Twight, economics professor at Boise State University. That refrain is hardly new, of course. Ronald Reagan used it to great effect in his early presidential campaigns. Twight offers a plausible explanation about why politicians like Reagan, who promise to "shrink" big government, find it so hard to do once in power. In her view, entrenched bureaucrats and politicians willfully manipulate "political transaction costs" (or the costs of collective action) in an effort to influence "people's perceptions of the costs and benefits of governmental activities." Stripped of its academic window dressing, Twight's thesis is straightforward: government insiders actively promote their own public policy initiatives. In her view, this promotion often takes the form of outright misrepresentation of costs and benefits to the individual citizen.
      --Publishers' Weekly


  • The Moneybags Bill
    McCain-Feingold will invite more money into politics, not less.
    By Arthur F. Fergenson & Mark R. Levin
  • Third Parties Decry Campaign Finance Bill
    Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader and former Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan criticized the Shays-Meehan campaign finance legislation Monday, arguing it would infringe on free speech without ending corruption in the system.
    By Jim Burns
  • Campaign Finance: Cui Bono?
    A president seeking re-election stands to gain from "reform."
    BY MARTIN PLISSNER
  • Liberty's latest cure: Campaign finance reform
    If you want to fight back against campaign finance reform, writes George F. Smith, embrace the Tenth Amendment.
  • Perpetuating cynicism, protecting incumbents
    As you can expect, Charles Bloomer isn't a fan of campaign finance reform. Plain and simple, it's an attack on free speech and designed to help the people currently on the Hill to remain there.
  • Incumbent protection
    Alan Keyes advises campaign finance reform bill threatens liberty.
  • Silencing freedom
    Kyle Williams skewers campaign-finance shenanigans.
  • Reform School
    The Shays-Meehan incumbency protection act.
    by John Fund
  • Looking Out for Number One
    Campaign finance reform means more power for the politicians.
    By Michael W. Lynch
  • Just a Gag?
    Congress prepares to repeal freedom of speech.
    BY PETE DU PONT
  • Daschle Threatens to Push Anti-speech Campaign Bill
    The Senate's Democrat leader Thursday vowed immediate action on a constitutionally dubious campaign finance "reform" bill that passed the House.
  • St. John's Reform
    Will Bush have the courage to veto McCain-Feingold?
    Wall Street Journal Op-Ed
  • Noxious reform
    David Limbaugh warns of dangers in new campaign-finance bill.
  • House Passes Campaign Finance Bill
    In a major step toward the most dramatic revision of campaign finance law in a generation, the House early Thursday morning passed landmark legislation designed to rid national politics of unregulated "soft money" and its allegedly nefarious influence.
  • NRA Will Take Shays-Meehan Bill To Supreme Court If It Passes
    Now the nation's largest Second Amendment rights group says it is willing to go to court, if necessary, to preserve its First Amendment rights.
    By Jeff Johnson



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