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The End Result of Campaign Finance Reform
Campaign Finance Reform. In the beginning, it appeared that the McCain-Feingold bill would choke off political speech, in clear violation of the First Amendment. Then, we sat apopleptic as the Supreme Court held this law to be Constitutional by a thin majority. We feared that the law would be used to put a gag in the mouths of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and would serve to entrench incombents. Then there was the election of 2004.
"The 2004 election saw a gigantic turnout, reversing a trend of apathy among the electorate. I believe that McCain-Feingold has inadvertantly invigorated healthy debate in this country."
IRC Section 527 groups, permitted by the law, proliferated on both sides of the campaign. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, MoveOn.org and others made huge waves, with as little as $500,000 (a pittance of the nearly $2,000,000,000.00 spent this campaign) in actual funding. Ads were made; other ads fact-checked the originals. Notwithstanding a law that some feared would choke off political debate, it flourished as it never has. People who thought our President’s signing the bill was wrong ought now to see the wisdom of the act. Personally, I think that our President was brilliant in supporting this bill, and I know in my heart that he foresaw the salutary effect on politiucal debate. The 2004 election saw a gigantic turnout, reversing a trend of apathy among the electorate. I believe that McCain-Feingold has inadvertantly invigorated healthy debate in this country.
How did this come to be? The nature of the finance system before put the money into the hands of the parties. This "Soft Money" was only spent in the manner dictated by the party leadership. The result was a stifled and highly-controlled debate. By taking "soft money" from the parties and leaving the door open to the 527’s tons of money flowed to numerous organizations with varying perspectives. This money enabled these previously-unheard groups to get the message out. Where the GOP would never have thought to give one second of ad time to the Swift Boat Vets, McCain-Feingold enabled them to spread their message. On the other side of the aisle, George Soros put massive funding into groups like MoveOn and others, spreading their message. Although it seemed unconstitutional at the time, the statutory wall prohibiting the candidate from co-ordinating the actions of the 527’s enhanced the quality of the messages and the debate.
Now let me make this clear that none of this was intended by those who drafted the statute. They wanted to protect incumbencies and try to improperly influence the makeup of the Congress, by gagging those who would criticize incumbents, even within the hierarchy of their own parties. Their efforets backfired and the People saw the benefits. The 527 groups are effectively regulated by the other ones who fact-check them. The Congress has stumbled into something that truly does enhance the "public welfare" -- energetic healthy debate!
"Congress will probably try to ’close the 527 loophole’ in an effort to put the gag back on political speech and protect their collective keesters."
Congress will probably try to "close the 527 loophole" in an effort to put the gag back on political speech and protect their collective keesters. I hope that the GOP sees that they have benefitted by virtue of the 527s and acts to keep the law exactly as it is. Moreover, President Bush should veto any effort to change this; he owes his re-election to the strong healthy debate that is the unintentional end-result of McCain-Feingold. We need the 527 groups to stay in place and keep the people informed of both sides of every issue. When properly informed, the people wisely decide to go conservative every time.
It is a rare thing for Congress to do something truly great. This is one of those times. As may be expected, it was truly unintentional. Kudos to our President for signing this bill. What a victory!