As if the restrictions on political speech in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) — better known as McCain-Feingold — weren’t enough, the “reformers” are at it again. This week, the campaign finance crusaders introduced yet another bill that would prohibit groups of Americans from banding together to raise and spend money on speech about our elected officials.
Specifically, Senators McCain and Feingold have turned their attention to so-called 527 groups like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Americans Coming Together and Moveon.org, which had a major impact on the last election. Not unexpectedly, these groups sprung up in the wake of the implementation of BCRA as Americans right, left and center sought to exercise their right to speak out during election season.
But Senators McCain and Feingold are having none of it. They want their sweeping regulations and restrictions on political speech to apply universally, and especially to the 527s.
The Senators are responding to the utter failure of the McCain-Feingold law during the recent election. Rather than admitting that their bill accomplished virtually none of its objectives, the ‘reformers’ are trying to get the government to restrict more political speech. But their thumb-in-the-dike approach won’t work. It’s time for them to admit that they’ve failed and that further regulation will only yield further failure.
The First Amendment was written to ensure that anyone who wanted to be heard in an election could speak without restriction. This bill broadens the blunt rejection of that idea and would expand the government’s unprecedented trampling of our constitutional rights.
Our elections need less regulation, not more. Instead of passing the ‘reformers’ next regulation bill, Congress ought to pass the First Amendment Restoration Act (H.R.46), which repeals some of the most onerous restrictions on our free speech rights.
It’s time to draw the line. If McCain and his coterie of campaign finance crusaders have their way, it won’t be long before two people won’t be able to talk about politics over dinner without a team of lawyers, disclaimers, disclosures, and FEC supervision.
For more than two hundred years, our system has endured on the basis of unrestricted speech and expression. Now, this bunch of politicians in Washington wants to further limit what we can say and when we can say it. That doesn’t help our democracy. It only puts our freedom at risk.February 3, 2005