Senator John McCain (R-AZ) just doesn't get it.  Elections are for the voters, not the politicians. The Bipartisan Incumbent Protection Act, Part Two

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) just doesn't get it.  Elections are for the voters, not the politicians.

For years, Senator McCain has led the charge for what he calls "campaign finance reform."  His work, along with that of Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Representatives Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA), led to the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, the most sweeping change to federal election law in more than a generation.  But instead of giving citizens increased participation in and influence over our representative government, McCain-Feingold actually did -- and was probably intended to do -- exactly the opposite.

After all, remember who passed "campaign finance reform" -- the politicians.  And, they had no reason to make it more difficult for them to keep their seats in Congress.  Thus, it's not hard to understand why the incumbents made sure to make it illegal for Americans to pool their money and pay for broadcast advertising that dares to refer to a candidate in the weeks before an election.  Quite simply, the politicians don't want anyone but themselves to influence their own election (or should we say re-election).

Indeed, as noted First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams tells the story, Senator McCain did little to hide his disdain for grassroots activists when his deposition was taken as part of the constitutional challenge to his "campaign finance reform" law.  Less than a year ago at a book forum, Abrams told a group of concerned free speech scholars and commentators that Senator McCain wondered aloud in his deposition why candidates should be forced to respond to grassroots groups and issue advertisements.  Senator McCain couldn't understand why concerned citizens should be allowed to take a candidate off his campaign message and show him in a less than flattering light, according to Abrams.  In other words, Senator McCain made it clear he believed elections were for the politicians, not their constituents.

Now, after a presidential and congressional election in which Senator McCain's "campaign finance reform" law didn't totally silence the voters -- although it has certainly stifled much too much political speech -- the Senator has returned from his drawing board with a new idea about how to prevent those pesky constituents for meddling in his election campaigns.  Specifically, Senator McCain has proposed legislation that would require anyone and everyone who mobilizes citizens to contact and advise their elected representatives to file intrusive reports with the Congress.  Senator McCain and his fellow politicians want to keep their eyes on which of us is doing what, when, why and how to get other voters to participate in the political process.

Think about that idea for a minute.  Initially, it might not seem that bad; disclosure rarely does.  But consider why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had to fight to safeguard the privacy of its members in Alabama during the civil rights struggle, and that most of America was willing to sit idly by while Senator Joseph McCarthy used his elected office to conduct a witch hunt for supposed communists.  Well, Senator McCain's legislation will make such persecution of political enemies all the easier.

On the other hand, since the very beginning Senator McCain has touted ridding the government of political favoritism as a primary goal of his "campaign finance reform" crusade.  But his new legislation would actually make it easier for politicians to identify, and then reward, their political friends and supporters.

Once again, Senator McCain has shown his real self not through his populist persona but through the legislation he wants the rest of us to be forced to follow.  Last time, that meant restricting as much political speech by as many citizens as possible.  This time it could mean preventing as much political participation by as many voters as possible.  It's long past time for his constituents to teach him that elections really are for the voters, not the politicians.

TAKE ACTION: Send an URGENT Blast Fax messages to President George W. Bush and all 55 Republicans in the United States Senate.  Demand they oppose S. 2128, which is nothing more than a cleverly disguised attempt to cut everyday Americans like you out of the political process.
March 2, 2006
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