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Thursday, October 27, 2005 

This is the Post Where I Rip Feingold

To say that I don't like Russ Feingold is an understatement. I can't stand him. I may be allergic to him. I'm no fan of either of Wisconsin's senators, but I think my anti-Feingold streak is longer than my anti-Kohl streak. Why? There are a few substantive reasons, like my previous post about Feingold's revolting attack on Bill Pryor during his confirmation hearing. There is also my general dislike of his phony "maverick" label. It's phony, just as McCain's "maverick" label is phony. If you think that these are principled men, above the fray of partisanship, working hard for what's best for the nation, then I have one question for you. What color is the sky in your world? In my blue sky world, politicians care about one thing: re-election. Even if you buy into that "doing the people's work" crap, you can't do good deeds if you get run out of office. The end result is doing your best to not piss off 51% of the electorate.

But let's look at Russell for a moment before I digress too far. What has been the crowning achievement of Feingold's career so far? That would be the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, BCRA if you're into brevity, McCain-Feingold if you're into fellating these two jokers. The idea behind campaign finance reform is that money corrupts politics, it corrupts elections, and it harms democracy. Given the properly drafted legislation, all of that evil money and its bad influence can be taken out of the system. If you believe that, why not just pass a law to make everyone be nice to each other. You'll end poverty, crime, and bigotry in one masterstroke.

I think the premise is flawed from the start. I don't think that money injected into politics turns good legislators into corrupt tools of special interests. I think that highly corruptible people are drawn to politics and succeed in politics. If politicians are the noble creatures that we are led to believe, they would take the money, spend it on their campaign, and legislate independently of that contribution. Of course, they won't get money from that same group next time, and might not get any from other groups. They're probably going to lose re-election. Sucks, but quite noble.

In reality, politicians do care quite a bit about who is giving them money. And they are going to represent those interests whether they are the NRA or Emily's List. Why is this shocking to people? How long has politics been quid pro quo? Unless you're in a fog of idealism, you'd probably say a long, long time. That's the nature of the activity.

BCRA is unconstitutional. Only 4 members of the Supreme Court agreed with me, but I think that you'd have to be lying to yourself to think otherwise. Read the case McConnell v FEC. The majority opinion is a justification masquerading as a legal opinion. Check out Justice Scalia's opinion, starting at page 169 of the PDF.
...a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government. For that is what the most offensive provisions of this legislation are all about.

Scalia builds on this point...
It forbids pre-election criticism of incumbents by corporations, even not-for-profit corporations, by use of their general funds...

Basically, BCRA results in less speech critical of politicians. It's not shocking that so many politicians would vote for this bill. It's another hurdle placed in front of anyone who is trying to unseat an incumbent. I guess their 90-some% rate of re-election is not enough. They need to make sure it's harder to criticize them or inform voters about their records.

Scalia then takes on the argument that money isn't speech and this kind of regulation does not restrict speech. The argument is crap. He points out that regulating production and dissemination of ideas is an effective way to restrict speech. It would be like the government saying that we have total freedom of the press, but we can only spend so much each year on newsprint, ink, and printing machines. That is a de facto restriction on speech. Stamp Act anyone?

Read the entire opinion (I know it's long, just do it). Scalia masterfully takes BCRA and the majority apart and exposes the stupidity of both. I was incredibly disappointed in President Bush, who said in his first campaign that this legislation was unconstitutional, when he signed it into law. Unfortunately, campaign finance reform is popular with the public (most of them probably don't understand it), so he felt a political need to sign it. It should've been vetoed.

The law very biased against lower and middle class citizens too. Read BCRA. Easy to understand? Think Joe Six-Pack can figure out the various aspects of the law if he wants to form a citizens' group and make a difference in the election? I don't. This law does a wonderful job of preventing ordinary citizens from getting involved. They cannot afford the time and cost it will take to comply with the ins and outs of this law. Who can? The very rich. George Soros has no problem hiring an office full of people to help PACs and candidates. If you can afford to have an army of highly trained specialists working full time, you can probably comply with BCRA. Look at how much of a campaign's costs are devoted to legal and accounting services and professionals. It's a huge amount. This is just another roadblock.

I discussed this law with someone (a huge Feingold supporter) one night, and he said that he didn't care that it was unconstitutional. After recovering from my shock and restraining my urge to slap him, I asked for an explanation. He said that he'd be willing to give up some of his First Amendment rights to "fix politics." That 2004 election sure was clean, huh? And BCRA was written so well that there were no loopholes whatsoever (as long as you ignore those 527 groups). Corruption was fixed too. Now there are no politicians in DC beholden to special interests. What a wonderful law! Thank you, Senator Feingold. You fixed everything.

Kind of funny that Mr. Defender of Civil Liberties doesn't seem to care about the First Amendment...

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  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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