Campaign Finance Reform, or, Why We Need Guns

If you want to know why I’d vote for Hillary Clinton before John McCain, check out the excerpts from ex-FEC Chair Bradley Smith’s speech at Capital University on how John McCain’s War on Political Speech tramples the First Amendment. Read the whole thing, don’t just rely on my clips. The Arizona senator had several reasons to pass this law.

  • Sen. McCain objects to groups that “often run ads that the candidates themselves disapprove of.”
  • Sen. McCain went on: “Further, these ads are almost always negative attack ads, and do little to further beneficial debate and healthy political dialogue.”
  • “These ads are direct, blatant attacks on the candidates. We don’t think that’s right.”

And you wonder why it’s been referred to as the Incumbent Protection Act? But does it fight political corruption, or the appearance thereof? Such as:

  • BellSouth hiring the offspring of Sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.)—both members of the influential Senate Commerce Committee—as lobbyists.
  • the wife Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) working as an aviation lobbyist while her husband was majority leader.
  • Family members of high-ranking legislators paid to sit on corporate boards and to make highly lucrative speeches. The wife of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), for example, earned $328,000 in speaking fees in 2001, just after her husband shot to national prominence as Al Gore’s running mate.

How about Senator Straight Talk himself?

The Brennan Center invited Sen. McCain to speak and then approaches a large number of corporations, perhaps saying something like, “Sen. McCain—the ranking minority member of the Commerce Committee, before which your company has a great deal of business, and a possible future presidential candidate—is coming to speak. Would you care to sponsor a table?” And Enron and Coca-Cola and Philip Morris just suddenly decide that they are very interested in campaign reform and kick in some good old soft money, which the Brennan Center uses to lobby and provide free legal services for an issue of “transcendent importance” to none other than Sen. McCain. Appearance of corruption, anyone?

Wouldn’t suggesting that corporations support the Brennan Center to provide legislative support to Sen. McCain on the issue that made his national reputation carry the same potential for blackmail and favoritism as corporate donations to political campaigns?

And to summarize a description titled McCain’s Soft-Money Machine:

… a handful of top advisers to Senator John McCain run a quiet campaign. They promote his crusade against special interest money in politics. They send out news releases promoting his initiatives. And they raise money—hundreds of thousands of dollars, tapping some McCain backers for more than $50,000 each.

These advisers work for a group called the Reform Institute, founded in 2001 after Sen. McCain’s failed presidential bid. The chairman of the board of the Reform Institute is…John McCain. If you go to look at the press releases at reforminstitute.org, you will see that virtually every release mentions Sen. McCain in the first sentence. Not paragraph, sentence. … the president is Richard Davis … John McCain’s 2000 campaign manager. The counsel to the Reform Institute is Trevor Potter … legal counsel to McCain 2000! The finance director of the Reform Institute is a woman named Carla Eudy. She was finance director for McCain 2000. The communications director is Crystal Benton; she was McCain’s press secretary.

Recently the Reform Institute, which bills itself as “a thoughtful, moderate voice for reform in the campaign finance and election administration debates,” launched what it calls the Natural Resources Stewardship Project. … of course, John McCain is planning to run for president again, and his signature issue, other than campaign finance regulation, is global warming. To run the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, the institute hired John Raidt, who, you guessed it, served 15 years working on “environmental initiatives” for Sen. McCain.

And how is the Reform Institute funded? With contributions, in six figures or more, from individuals and corporations, including the cable company Cablevision. Cable companies are constantly before the Senate Commerce Committee, which Sen. McCain chaired at the time of Cablevision’s contribution. In fact, Cablevision gave $200,000 to the Reform Institute around the same time its officials were testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee. Appearance of corruption, anyone?

Straight talk, indeed. McCain also argued quite publicly that the internet, including blogs, should be regulated as well.

Because the McCain-Feingold bill did not mention Internet regulation in its list of terms, we at the FEC passed a rule exempting online speech. So Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), the main House sponsors of McCain-Feingold, filed suit, joined by Sens. McCain and Feingold in an amicus brief. They argued that the Internet exemption was improper and got a federal district court judge to agree.

So, today, theoreticly to reduce the appearance of corruption in politics, we have a situation where:

Right now in First Amendment jurisprudence there is more protection for simulated child pornography, flag burning, tobacco advertising, or burning a cross in an African-American residential neighborhood than there is for running an advertisement that merely mentions a congressman’s name within 60 days of an election.

Not my conclusion. That’s the previous FEC chairman talking. The scary part is that so many people want to do the same thing here in Oregon.

But perhaps most important, campaign finance regulation is based on the notion that government must be empowered to act on and order the lives of citizens without influence or pushback from those very same citizens.

People keep saying we don’t need the Second Amendment as long as we have the First. Hey people, do you think we need the Second yet? I do.



  1. kentuckydan said,

    December 11, 2005 @ 3:47 am

    “People keep saying we don’t need the Second Amendment as long as we have the First”

    Al long as we maintain the Second Amendment we stand some chance of keepiing the first Amendment, Which McCain and Crew seem to want to dispose of.

  2. TuCents » The McCain drumbeat? said,

    December 12, 2005 @ 6:05 pm

    […] I was either ahead of the curve or way behind it a few days ago. The buzz today is that the Senator is theone true hope to maintain Republicans in DC. […]

  3. activist kaza said,

    December 13, 2005 @ 12:09 am

    As for my “third cent” here…I respectfully disagree, gents. Money and free speech aren’t equivalent. Of course McCain has to “play the game” or the “hand that’s dealt him” now. What do you expect him to do? It’s disingenuous to suggest he is somehow corrupt because he sets up these PACs…it’s how the game is played now, fellas.

    Just because he wants to clean that up doesn’t suggest he is trampling on free speech. You pick the wrong enemy. How about worrying about the Patriot Act (a far greater assault on our freedoms, on which MANY conservatives agree)?

    Clean money is coming to Oregon and will be on a ballot measure near you soon, if not already on the ballot (in Portland). McCain can help bring it to Washington…and no, indy blogs will NOT be wiped out…but campaign funded sites should not be exempted from campaign finance regulations either.

  4. Matt said,

    December 13, 2005 @ 3:35 am

    I agree with you that the Patriot Act is a pretty nasty piece of legislation. (It topped the DMCA in my little black book of evil documents - a noteworthy achievement.) But I believe that by mentioning a piece of legislation in your comment, you miss the assumption that drives the article: Laws come from people, and you’re supposed to vote for the people who will make (or break, but that doesn’t happen nearly enough) the laws. The theory goes that those people of similar views to yourself will make the laws that achieve the ends you agree with.

    David appears to worry that senator McCain will put into effect those laws which will restrict free speech in favor of making it easier on the incumbants to retain power.

    In my case, I worry about which of my rights are going to be trampled upon by whoever is elected.
    I don’t blame Bush for the Patriot Act; to have even appear to resist it would have been political suicide. At the time, people were scared. And to have our president not give us a security blanket would have been painted as an evil act.
    For the Patriot Act, I blame the law makers. The president didn’t make the law, he only allowed it through. The people who can live with themselves after penning that are the ones I blame. One word: Congress.

    Now, I don’t follow the elections nearly as closely as I should. So I don’t really know enough to condemn senator McCain. But I do worry that he may allow the next DMCA into the books.

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