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"Campaign Finance Reform" Vote Set

The U.S. House of Representatives has set a vote on so-called "Campaign Finance Reform," aka Shays-Meehan, for Wednesday, February 13. Debate, which will undoubtedly actuate one of the great political posture festivals of the season, will be on Tuesday.

The fast-track schedule, set by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, has forced Minority Leader Richard Gephardt to expedite a hernia operation, so there will even be a modicum of human interest in the proceedings. Look, Ethel. That Gephardt fella can hardly walk, but both sides of his mouth are still working.

The corrupting influence of political contributions will be vehemently denounced by recipients of the contributions, some of whom come awfully close to practicing extortion to yank and bank them. The "reformers" will be egged on by The New York Times and Washington Post, both of which have alzheimered on the notion that the First Amendment wasn’t written exclusively for them. Having finally gotten the vote for which the "reformers" whined incessantly, they now indicate that implementation may be put off until after the 2002 elections, so as not to be "disruptive," don’t you know.

Wandering somewhere in the neo-Shakespearean background will be Old John McCain himself, muttering to all who will listen, "I am tainted. Cleanse me of my sins." The Democrat National Committee, which has lost major contributors in countries with no extradition treaties, will trot out Terry McAuliffe to make sincere statements in support of clean and penniless politics.

Some version of this political exercise in cold fusion is likely to pass and be "reconciled" with the infamous McCain-Feingold Senate version. The President may even sign it, although this one represents an exquisite opportunity to stand on the principles being abandoned right and left by just about everyone else.

The media and a blitz of gratuitous press releases will make all this seem as if it matters. It does–about as much as Mariah Carey singing the national anthem before the Superbowl, a big build-up to a footnote the day after.

There is, in the end, one stumbling block to the extraordinary hubris and hypocrisy of this crowd: the Constitution of the United States. As quaint as the phrase, "Congress shall make no law…" may seem to some members of Congress, it is still, shall we say, the controlling legal authority, and on that, there are only nine votes that count.

Maps to the courthouse will be provided to all who don’t know the way. To read a more distinguished reason than this screed to join us there, click on Campaign Finance and the First Amendment

[Posted February 8, 2002]