Monday, October 02, 2006

McCain/Feingold

I was always suspicious of the McCain-Feingold act and figured someday it would come back to bite us......

I thought this was interesting, it is George Will's column titled Speechless in Seattle

"When the state's government imposed a 9.5-cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur of station KVI began advocating repeal by initiative. Proponents of repeal put up a Web site, hoping to raise 1,000 volunteers and $25,000. In two days they had 6,500 and $87,000. Needing 224,880 signatures to put repeal on the ballot, they got 400,996.

Appalled by this outburst of grass-roots democracy, some local governments, which stood to gain many millions from the tax, unleashed a law firm that would gain substantially from handling the bond issues the tax would finance. The firm set out to muzzle Carlson and Wilbur, using the state's campaign regulations.

It got a judge to rule that the broadcasters were not just supporters of the repeal campaign, they were agents of it. Why, they had even used the pronoun "we" when referring to proponents of repeal. Their speech constituted political advertising, and their employer was making an "in-kind contribution" to the repeal campaign. The judge said a monetary value must be placed on their speech (he did not say how, he just said to do it that day). The law says reports must be filed and speech limits obeyed or fines imposed.

State law restricts to $5,000 the amount a single giver can contribute in the three weeks before an initiative. If Carlson's and Wilbur's speech were monetized at radio-advertising rates, they would be silenced for all but about 15 minutes in each of the campaign's crucial last three weeks. They continued to talk (the repeal campaign, outspent almost five to one, lost 54.6-45.4) and, aided by the libertarian litigators of the Institute for Justice, have taken the issue to the state Supreme Court."


Another story from the article:

A few people opposed to a ballot initiative that would annex their neighborhood to Parker, Colo., talked to neighbors and purchased lawn signs expressing opposition. So a proponent of annexation got them served with a complaint charging violations of Colorado's campaign-finance law. It demands that when two or more people collaborate to spend more than $200 to influence a ballot initiative, they must disclose the names, addresses and employers of anyone contributing money, open a separate bank account and file regular reports with the government. Then came a subpoena demanding information about any communications that opponents of the initiative had with neighbors concerning the initiative, and the names and addresses of any persons to whom they gave lawn signs. They hired a lawyer. That has become a cost of political speech.

And yet one more:

In Florida, a businesswoman ceased publication of her small-town newspaper rather than bear compliance costs imposed by that state's speech police. Even though the Wakulla Independent Reporter contained community news and book reviews as well as political news and editorials, state campaign regulators declared it an "electioneering communication" in league with certain candidates, and ordered her to register with, and file regular reports to, the government.


The Brookings Institution did a rundown of the McCain Feingold bill:


Title II Section 201 Electioneering Communication: Disclosure

Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and James Jeffords (R-VT) offered the following electioneering communication provisions which target broadcast issue advocacy by interest groups, political organizations, and other persons. Every organization (not otherwise banned from making electioneering communications)must report any expenditure of $10,000 or greater on broadcast electioneering communication made. An election communication is defined as any broadcast, cable or satellite communication that clearly refers to an identified candidate; is run within 60 days of a general election and 30 days within a primary, convention or caucus; and is made to an audience that targets the electorate for that office.

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced an amendment that would in the event the Snowe-Jeffords provisions are struck down by the courts, apply a different standard to communications promoting, supporting, attacking or opposing a candidate. If a communication, at any time during the year, is "suggestive of no plausible meaning other than an exhortation to vote for or against a specific candidate," then such an advertisement would be required to be disclosed according to the conditions set forth in McCain-Feingold.

Not only do I think it's a sham to disallow unions and nonprofit advocacy groups to run critical ads within 60 days of a federal election, but how long till talk radio is next?

I've always believed the McCain-Feingold bill was a sham from start to finish. On the surface it's supposed to be about soft-money contributions but when you dig deeper it's about shushing up the opposition.

How long till political talk radio is next?
How long till they attack the bloggers?

The first draft of the Federal Election Committee rules regulated most websites except for smaller password protected ones. Had the first draft become part of the final approved version, my political blogging could be taken as a contribution to the candidate not on the receiving end of my wrath. The Federal Election Committee states a contribution includes "any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office”

Would our political blogging be considered a "gift?"

The whole thing has stunk from day one and I have been awaiting the day that the government tries to nail political talk radio and the internet bloggers.


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


The first amendment and the Bill of Rights are the backbone of our free and democratic nation. My question to all of us is how much does it take till we all get pissed off and finally take action to fight the slow but sure erosion of our Constitutional rights?

2 comments:

  1. Wow. This is disturbing.

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  2. Exactly! That's why so many organizations have been trying to fight it since it was proposed, and why they have all been gagged. It was unconstitutional then and it's unconstitutional now.

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