Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog points us to this disturbing article by Jonathan Rauch in the National Journal. Amy says "the staff of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) is circulating [it] on Capitol Hill... It's a scary read."
Fix The McCain-Feingold Law. Oops -- Can I Say That?A scary read, indeed. But hardly a suprise. All of the court decisions listed by Rauch (and their are quite a few that are so... old-soviet-union-esque as to be laughable if they weren't so serious) were preditced by the opponents of the bill before ever it was passed and signed.
Now it is official: The United States of America has a federal bureaucracy in charge of deciding who can say what about politicians during campaign season. We can argue, and people do, about whether this state of affairs is good or bad, better or worse than some alternative. What is inarguable is that America now has what amounts to a federal speech code, enforced with jail terms of up to five years.
What we are talking about here is a loss of our basic Constitutional right to free speech. Particularly political speech, which historically has been most repressed.
Worries about free speech, however, have proved all too well founded. "We're heading into a new era," says [FEC Chairman Bradley] Smith. "You get less protection talking about your congressman than for Internet pornography sites or burning a cross outside a church or topless dancing."Don't even get me started on how well this all fits in with the late Paul Wellstone's socialist-nearly-communist politics. Rauch point out that the Supreme Court, which even proponents of the McCain-Feingold law expected would overturn portions of the bill, "ringingly ratified it."
The law automatically regulates as "electioneering" any broadcast ad that refers to a specific federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. Corporations must finance such ads with limited-dollar contributions -- called "hard money," perhaps because raising it is so hard. As of August, for example, Wisconsin Right to Life had less than $14,000 in hard money, not enough for a broadcast lobbying campaign.
The rationale for the new restrictions is that corporate treasuries should not be spent to influence elections. But BCRA made a mistake. In debating the bill, Congress cynically and thoughtlessly approved an amendment, sponsored by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., that defined "corporation" to include nonprofits.
The law is, and always was, a horrible abuse of our Constitutional rights. It needs to be repealed at least in part, probably in full, before a corrupt, orgnization, like the FEC has too much influence over our election process.
Rauch has a lot more to say, I recommend you read it. Once the election is over, and all of the lawyers have gone home, how to fix this problem will be a major debate for a few years.