Friday, May 02, 2003

Court Strikes Most of New Campaign Finance Law (Washington Post, May 2, 2003)

A federal court Friday struck down most of a ban on the use of large corporate and union political contributions by political parties, casting into doubt the future of the campaign finance law that was supposed to govern next year’s high-stakes presidential election.

The court also ruled unconstitutional new restrictions on election-time political ads by special interest groups and others. It barred the federal government from enforcing them and all other parts of the law it struck down.

The decision is a victory for the Republican National Committee and dozens of interest groups, who contended that the law would undermine their ability to participate in politics. It is a loss for Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin who fought for years to get a new law enacted. They argued that it was time to end the corrupting influence of big money in politics.

Why John McCain thought the restricting of political speech was constitutional is beyond me.

Most politicians are already millionaires before they come to Congress. For many, the work they do in Washington is for a pay cut. Dick Cheney left his $26 million dollar job to be Vice President for a couple hundred grand.

I don’t buy the idea that money is ruining politics. Money is just a tool to get a message out. Ads inform people of positions. You can argue that they pre-package candidates with ads, but it’s our own fault if we can’t spot it.

If we passed a law that required that every political contribution be attached to a specific person or group, then voters could decide whether or not that contribution was corrupting. If a candidate is being backed by a PAC or Corporation that voters think is contrary to community standards or too influential on the candidate’s voting pattern, then the voters can vote them out of office.

There is a train of thought that candidates are being bought off with money, and that could be undoubtedly true if there weren’t elections. But since we have elections people can just contribute money to candidates who already agree with them. The NRA doesn’t pay off the anti-gun person to change his voting pattern they instead contribute to the pro-gun candidate running against him. NOW doesn’t throw money at anti- abortion candidates, they just fund the pro-choice candidate.

Some big groups, and corporations fund both candidates, to buy some sort of influence, but that’s their own folly. If that money was corrupting people we would see a lot more agreement on issues and congressional voting, but instead we see the same amount of disagreement and grandstanding as always.

I hear the word "Special Interest" like it's a conspiracy to overturn democracy. We all have special interests, but as individuals we have little voice. These special interest organizations that McCain hates like NOW and the NRA allow for people to voice their opinions as a group so they can be heard. These organizations allow for a lot more political involvement by common people than his plan that would have the government pay for campaigns. Raising money for a cause is actually a way to express one's self politically. How involved will people be if the government spoon feeds it to them?

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