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"Campaign Finance Reform"

Virtually everyone in and around politics has had something to say about so-called "campaign finance reform," including us. It is now here, in the Lewis Carroll reality of Shays-Meehan, the bill passed by the House of Representatives.

Every citizen who cares anything at all about the Constitution and participation in the political process should read it.

That will not be easy. The bill is intentionally written to be obscure and impenetrable, just the way you would do it if you were perpetrating the greatest legislative scam of our lifetime.

Boiled down to its fundamental components, the bill has a singular purpose: Diminish the political voice of everyone in this country other than incumbent members of Congress (and the media, which is exempt). For themselves, these worthies actually voted an increase in campaign contribution limits. Should they find themselves running against someone with his or her own money to spend, well, the limits are raised again.

As you read the bill–or try to–remind yourself that political speech is the most important that can be made, and it costs money to speak effectively. At each provision, ask yourself how that could conceivably comport with those powerful, simple words of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Ask yourself what you think of those, your representatives, who voted to violate their oath to uphold that Constitution. Compare the words of statesmen trying to build a government of balance, accountability and durability with the deceitful jargon of those interested only in self-preservation.

Knowledge may not, in this case, translate to power, but at least you’ll know you’ve been had.

[Posted February 21, 2002]