View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Free Speech Disappointment

It's too bad that the Republicans are now going to the FEC, to get them to expand their regulation of 527 groups (named for the section of the tax code). Democrats have been way out in front of Republicans in organizing and funding these groups. The RNC, wanting time to play catch-up, wants the FEC to step in apply many aspects of McCain-Feingold to them, too. This is wrong. The way to counter these groups is to catch up. If that takes losing an election, or takes a little time, then that's what it takes.

The Republican request would restrict most political spending to "hard money" contributions, which are limited to $2,000 per individual to a federal candidate. The Republican Party and President Bush hold a substantial advantage over Democrats in raising such money.

Last year, the Republicans' national, senatorial and congressional campaign committees raised nearly $183 million in strictly regulated hard money, more than twice the $81 million raised by Democratic committees, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a Web site that tracks political money. Bush, in turn, has raised about $131 million in hard money, three times the $41 million raised by his closest Democratic competitor, Howard Dean.

The Republican request takes aim at efforts by Democratic strategists such as Harold Ickes, former aide to President Bill Clinton, and Steve Rosenthal, former AFL-CIO political director.

I know, I know, in politics, you do what needs to be done. But the Federal Election Commission, I mean theexistence of the FEC in its current form, is a disgrace. Almost as much of a disgrace as McCain-Feingold. McCain-Feingold was almost completely a Democratic bill. Just as John McCain was the only Republican among the Keating Five, and the least implicated among all of them, so too was he one of the very few Republicans to support this monstrosity.

The Democrats supported McCain-Feingold and the Republicans opposed it, even though each party was acting in opposition to its own interests. The Democrats proved the Republicans point about money being like water - always finding its way around a blockage - by forming the 527 groups in the first place. Now the Republicans are proving their own point about the pernicious growth of government regulation.

James Jordan, spokesman for three pro-Democratic groups -- the Media Fund, America Coming Together and America Vote -- denounced the RNC action. "This is nothing more nor less than an another attempt by Republican special interests to silence progressive voices in an election year," he said.

If he can actually name another one, I'd be interested in hearing about it. As mentioned above, the loudest voices for shutting other people up have been the "progressive" ones.

Conversations with some FEC members indicate the panel may be willing to take a tough enforcement stand toward 527s, both in response to a pending request for an advisory opinion and in broader rule-making. None of the commissioners was willing to commit to a specific policy, but Michael E. Toner, a Republican member, said that if independent but partisan groups are allowed to spend "hundreds of millions of dollars . . . a lot of people believe the McCain-Feingold law will be seriously undermined."

Congress passes a law with strict funding provisions and restrictions on political speech. The President signs it. Both are confident that the Supreme Court will invalidate the worst portions of the law. The Court, to everyone's surprise, then upholds the whole thing. One party decides to encourage the executive to self-broaden its mandate. The executive agrees to do so under the rubric of the "spirit" of the law. No doubt the courts will be called in again to adjudicate. And I'm supposed to be relieved that the political process isn't being manipulated.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory
help Israel
axis of weevils
contact us
site sections