Thursday, July 19, 2007
Campaign Finance Reform is the undoing of John McCain in they eyes of (or at least the column by) George Will this morning. Millions of conservative voters have realized that McCain wants to surpress their free speech, and having intellectually weighed the pros and cons of McCain-Feingold, they have rejected him due to his undemocratic ways.
In 2004, Wisconsin Right to Life, a small citizens group thatposed no conceivable threat of "corruption" to anyone or anything, wanted to run an ad urging Wisconsin's senators, Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, not to participate in Senate filibusters against the president's judicial nominations. But Feingold was running for reelection, and WRTL's proposed ad was declared an "electioneering communication" (any radio or TV ad that "refers to" a candidate for federal office). And the McCain-Feingold blackout period banned such ads 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election -- when ads matter most because people are paying attention to politics.
The WRTL case could have been an occasion for McCain to say: This is not what McCain-Feingold was designed to do -- it was intended to stop the (as he sees it) "corruption" of elected officials soliciting large "soft money" contributions (not for particular candidates, but for party-building and other activities). Or he could at least have kept quiet. Instead, he went out of his way to stick his thumb in the eye of critics: With his brief to the Supreme Court, he underscored the fact that suppressing inconvenient (to politicians) speech is exactly what he and his McCain-Feingold allies -- Fred Thompson was an important one -- had in mind.
This was exactly what they had in mind. For all the voters would know, this group may have not been funded by pro-lifers. The reporting requirements are much more lax. You could be the HMO industry, the oil companies, supporters of Charlie Manson for that matter, and donate $2,300 a person to your favorite political candidate, or you can call yourself "Americans for Puppies and Ice Cream Sundaes", funnel money not to the candidate of your choice, but to an "issue group" that is "concerned" about Russ Feingold's hatred of puppies and attempt to boost his opponent's campaign through subterfuge.
This is exactly what McCain-Feingold was trying to prevent. Sadly, the five right wingers on the Supreme Court agree with George Will and we are going to be subjected to more speech by those who have the deepest pockets.
George Will has consistently opposed campaign finance reform under the theory that the more money you have, the more speech you are entitled to do during campaign season. Why should you have to limit yourself to the same speech somebody making $70,000 a year makes? They can give $2,300 to a candidate and it means something to their finances. Why can't rich people give meaningfully too?
If I ever win the lottery, I hereby vow to start a group called "Americans For Clean Rivers". We will spend millions on electing candidates who promise to ban bow ties and obnoxious columnists.