05 Sep 2006

McCain-Feingold Goes into Effect Thursday

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The Washington Examiner editorializes:

Something almost without precedent in America will happen Thursday. That’s the day when McCain-Feingold — aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — will officially silence broadcast advertising that contains criticism of members of Congress seeking re-election in November. Before 2006, American election campaigns traditionally began in earnest after Labor Day. Unless McCain-Feingold is repealed, Labor Day will henceforth mark the point in the campaign when congressional incumbents can sit back and cruise, free of those pesky negative TV and radio spots. It is the most effective incumbent protection act possible, short of abolishing the elections themselves.

How can this possibly be, you ask? McCain-Feingold — named after the law’s main advocates, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis. — bans all broadcast political advocacy advertising that mentions candidates by name, beginning 60 days before the election. President Bush signed and the U.S. Supreme Court shockingly upheld McCain-Feingold three years ago…

None of this would surprise Alexander Hamilton, who argued in “The Federalist Papers” that written guarantees of things like freedom of the press would be purposely misconstrued by ambitious politicians and used as a pretext to do that which the Constitution banned: “I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.” That is just about exactly what has happened now with the First Amendment and freedom of political speech, thanks to McCain-Feingold.

By election day, it should be clear to all reasonable persons that McCain-Feingold was a serious mistake and, like Prohibition, ought to be repealed.

George W. Bush was conserving all that political capital he was going to use to pass Social Security reform and permanent tax reform. He knew that the Supreme Court would jjust have to strike down McCain-Feingold, so why take the heat? He went ahead and signed it.

The Supreme Court’s astonishing ruling in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, I woud say, deserves to rank as the absolute nadir of Supreme Court decisions, worse than Kelo, worse than Roe, worse than Dred Scott.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 is not only a direct attack on free speech, it is a direct attack on political free speech. If any form or species of speech deserves to be more protected than others, surely it would have to be specifically political free speech.

Senator John McCain, whose name was attached to this abominable piece of legislation, is likely to be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Let’s hope it does not escape the GOP’s attention that this potential nominee has a record of conspicuous enmity to both the First and Second Amendments.

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