Saturday, August 12, 2006

Law, Money & Politics

From Eminent Domain Blog, a couple of dandy posts on so called “campaign finance reform.”

Which, of course, should be called “regulation of political speech.”

One post reviews a sensible article in the New York Times by two fellows named Barah and Bauer.

The article observes:
Some reformers genuinely believe that it is possible to drive money out of politics and still observe the command of the First Amendment. Others see practical advantages. Many politicians favored McCain-Feingold because it prohibited certain advertising that mentioned opponents’ names, or because it authorized them to raise more money if they were challenged by wealthy, free-spending opponents. The bill also attempted to strike at “negative” political speech — known to ordinary Americans by its other name, “criticism” — by requiring candidates to publicly approve their ad content.
But, the conclude, “campaign finance reform” is unavoidably partisan.
Partisans will continue to demand restrictions calculated to hurt their opponents or help themselves; the press will inveigh against the nefarious role of money in politics (without explaining how candidates are supposed to communicate, cost-free, with millions of voters); and “good government” groups will explain that we are just one or two reforms away from cleaner, brighter, more wholesome politics.
Thus McCain-Feingold was a Democratic measure because the Democrats sincerely believe that money favors the Republicans.

If campaigns are deprived of money, which they need to take their case directly to the voters, citizens would be entirely dependent on the media for political information.

Which, of course, Democrats would love.

Of course, money doesn’t favor the Republicans as much as it once did, and the media (since the advent of the Internet, talk radio and Fox News) doesn’t favor the Democrats so much, either.

But partisans tend to fight old battles.

The other post cites a post on the (libertarian) Cato Institute blog. The post addresses the Connecticut Democratic senatorial primary:
There is not a line in McCain-Feingold that isn’t designed to protect incumbents. The so-called Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act makes it a crime to even mention the name of a candidate for federal office in a radio or television ad within 60 days of a general election. No criticizing incumbents! But the worst part of these laws came with the 1974 Amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act, which instituted a $1000 contribution limit to candidates running for federal office (now slightly more than $2000, but less in real terms than the ’74 limits). Incumbents have earmarks to pass around and large mailing lists. Challengers do not. Advantage, incumbents.

Ned Lamont’s remarkable victory over three-term incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman yesterday exposes the true nature of contribution limits. They aren’t about the “appearance of corruption.” They’re about preventing a challenger from having a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. The one “loophole” the Supremes created with their incoherent 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo was that candidates have rights the rest of us don’t have. Apparently, they can’t be corrupted by their own money, so there are no limits on what they can spend on their own campaigns.

More than 60 percent of Ned’s campaign expenditures came from Ned. Without Ned, Ned loses. In fact, no political observer thought any candidate dependent on a $2000 contribution limit had any kind of chance of ousting Lieberman. Ned was a very poor candidate. Inarticulate with zero charisma. But by spending his own money he enfranchised the Democrats of Connecticut who otherwise, given the contribution limits, were disenfranchised. The Democrats in Connecticut hate the war in Iraq, Lieberman has rather energetically endorsed it. Yet the federal election laws would have assured Lieberman reelection were it not for the “loophole.”
Campaign finance reform puts the lie to any notion that Congress can “reform” politics. When we take the crass partisanship that afflicts so much that Congress does, and add the prissy moralism of people like John McCain, we have a recipe for disaster.

But the Mainstream Media does and will continue to like the concept.

Anything that takes power over elections from candidates and parties expands their power.


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