When their legislation led to the creation and dominance of so-called 527 organizations in federal elections, the two Senators sought to squelch the speech of those organizations and their members, too. Feingold's Folly – Part II

Since Congress passed the now-infamous McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), an assault on the First Amendment that effectively chilled the ability of most Americans to criticize or applaud their elected leaders in the months leading up to federal elections, there has been no shortage of hypocritical acts by BCRA's supporters – including its sponsors.

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold's (D-WI) claim that "money is corrupting us politicians" was justification enough for them to trample on the free-speech and association rights of all Americans when the two Senators sponsored and advocated passage of BCRA.

When their legislation led to the creation and dominance of so-called 527 organizations in federal elections, the two Senators sought to squelch the speech of those organizations and their members, too.

In McCain and Feingold's world, no group of citizens should be able to assemble to collectively and freely engage in the political process.   To them, silencing the voices of the electorate – the people they are supposed to be serving – is nothing more than plain-ol' "good government."

That is, unless and until one's political aspirations get in the way of the very "good government" one has fought so long to achieve.

With his name frequently mentioned as a likely presidential candidate in 2008, Feingold now wants access to the donor list of at least one of the 527 organizations he tried to shut down. 

According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, in August, Feingold's political action committee, the Progressive Patriots Fund, approached the now-defunct progressive 527 group, America Coming Together (ACT), in an effort to get its hands on the organization's donor list to raise money for the Senator.   Even more recently, Feingold's Senate campaign sought to buy access to the crème de la crème of ACT's list – specifically all of the organization's $10,000 plus donors, according to the same report. 

In a perfect world, we can't say we blame Feingold for wanting access to ACT's list.  In 2004, with the help of George Soros and former Clinton operative Harold Ickes, ACT raised more than $200 million from predominantly wealthy individuals willing to write five-, six- and even seven- figure checks.  In the world of political fundraising, it doesn't get much better than that.

But the world of politics is far from perfect.  And when Mr. Good Government, Mr. "we need to get big money out of politics" himself is doing the asking, a chainsaw can't cut through the hypocrisy.

As one unnamed source told Roll Call, "This brings new meaning to 'Do as I say, not as I do.'  In some ways, I see this as the true kickoff to the '08 season. You know, because someone is clearly selling his soul."

We do have to give ACT credit for seemingly standing on principle.  While the group is currently inactive, its donor list is reportedly available for "rent" to like-minded organizations and candidates – all, but Senator Feingold.  ACT has refused both of the Senator's recent requests. 

But before we give too much credit, Roll Call did remind us that ACT "was created in part by folks who have close ties to Sen[ator] Hillary Rodham Clinton," the liberal favorite in 2008.

Politics or principle?  You be the judge.

October 5, 2006
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