Powerline‘s Scott Johnson writing for The Daily Standard, asks an excellent question of CFR supporters. What do the campaign-finance reformers really want? His answer is much the same as the one I’ve given, but he helps inform the debate with this:
EVERY REFORM implies an ideal state or condition to which the reformer aspires. The ideal embedded in the First Amendment is that of unrestrained speech keyed to the constitutional system of self-government. What is the ideal state suggested by the logic of campaign-finance reform? Perhaps the most revealing passage in the hundreds of pages generated by the Supreme Court justices in their opinions on McCain-Feingold comes in Justice Scalia’s dissent. Scalia notes the usual good-government rhetoric regarding “the prevention of corruption or the appearance of corruption” in which campaign-finance reform always comes wrapped. He also takes a look under the wrapping:
[L]et us not be deceived. While the Government’s briefs and arguments before this Court focused on the horrible “appearance of corruption,” the most passionate floor statements during the debates on this legislation pertained to so-called attack ads, which the Constitution surely protects, but which Members of Congress analogized to “crack cocaine,” 144 Cong. Rec. S868 (Feb. 24, 1998) (remarks of Sen. Daschle), “drive-by shooting[s],” id., at S879 (remarks of Sen. Durbin), and “air pollution,” 143 Cong. Rec. 20505 (1997) (remarks of Sen. Dorgan). There is good reason to believe that the ending of negative campaign ads was the principal attraction of the legislation. A Senate sponsor said, “I hope that we will not allow our attention to be distracted from the real issues at hand-how to raise the tenor of the debate in our elections and give people real choices. No one benefits from negative ads. They don’t aid our Nation’s political dialog.” Id., at 20521–20522 (remarks of Sen. McCain). He assured the body that “[y]ou cut off the soft money, you are going to see a lot less of that [attack ads]. Prohibit unions and corporations, and you will see a lot less of that. If you demand full disclosure for those who pay for those ads, you are going to see a lot less of that . . . .” 147 Cong. Rec. S3116 (Mar. 29, 2001) (remarks of Sen. McCain). See also, e.g., 148 Cong. Rec. S2117 (Mar. 20, 2002) (remarks of Sen. Cantwell) (“This bill is about slowing the ad war. . . . It is about slowing political advertising and making sure the flow of negative ads by outside interest groups does not continue to permeate the airwaves”); 143 Cong. Rec. 20746 (1997) (remarks of Sen. Boxer) (“These so-called issues ads are not regulated at all and mention candidates by name. They directly attack candidates without any accountability. It is brutal . . . . We have an opportunity in the McCain-Feingold bill to stop that . . .”); 145 Cong. Rec. S12606–S12607 (Oct. 14, 1999) (remarks of Sen. Wellstone) (“I think these issue advocacy ads are a nightmare. I think all of us should hate them . . . . [By passing the legislation], [w]e could get some of this poison politics off television”)
Here Scalia hits the mother lode: He discovers that, in one sense, incumbent officeholders tend to have a profound disdain for politics. The ideal of incumbent officeholders promoting campaign-finance reform is freedom from criticism, especially at election time. Indeed, these incumbent officeholders seem to view elections as an inconvenience to their exercise of power.
Um… yes. It captures the self-interest denying, Pollyanna-pretense, mock-outrage of Huey Long err… John McCain, perfectly.
2 thoughts on “Motives redux”
The following is an excellent summation:Here Scalia hits the mother lode: He discovers that, in one sense, incumbent officeholders tend to have a profound disdain for politics. The ideal of incumbent officeholders promoting campaign-finance reform is freedom from criticism, especially at election time. Indeed, these incumbent officeholders seem to view elections as an inconvenience to their exercise of power.Comments:Although abused via the poll tax mentality of the South pre-Civil Rights, the founding fathers did seem to predicate much of their thinking upon a relatively informed electorate. For example, women were not prevented from voting primarily because of a belief it could cut into their soap operas; rather, from the (now hopefully obvious) belief that they were not sufficiently “competent” to vote– a fallacy consistently shown in spite of the occasional TV appearances of Maxine Waters and Bay Buchanan.So taking issue with the terms of CFR is easy hunting, and almost instantaneously boring if one is seeking examples of hypocrisy or cogent thinking. But seeking a solution that does not, with impugnity, enable the powerful to inculcate disinformation on the electorate also seems consistent with the Constitutional Preamble of seeking a more perfect union.JPM
With our schools turning out individuals who don’t even know the name of the Vice President of the United States, we may question competence to vote on bases other than sex; not to mention feeling a tad nervous about the future of the Republic.An informed electorate is a prerequisite for remaining a free people and it certainly is related to free political speech. Those who see freedom as a birthright requiring vigilant protection are more likely to be informed than those who regard it as a federal indulgence.The 19th amendment is an interesting example of changes in constitutional interpretation since 1920. Who can doubt that if the question of female suffrage were brought before the court today, no 19th amendment would be needed? Today’s court would certainly find that women deserved the vote under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. In the case of the 19th amendment, unlike abortion and capital punishment for minors, the people of the United States were informed and they were consulted. In their most recent Constitutional rewrite, the Court found a “national consensus” – apparently telepathically – in order to prohibit capital punishment for minors, ostensibly under the 8th amendment. The 8th amendment, in fact, says nothing about this issue. Capital punishment, including minors, was not considered cruel and unusual in 1791. Some states now do so consider it. Today, 12 states do not have capital punishment, and a minority of the remainder (18 of 38) limit capital punishment to offenders 18 and older. To complete the parallel; by 1912 there were 9 states with female suffrage legislation. The Constitution the founders wrote does not grant the Supreme Court the authority to substitute some justices apperception of “evolving standards of decency”, or replace the ballot-box with their hunch about a “national consensus”; nor does it countenance an appeal to the laws of foreign jurisdictions. Nonetheless, these were the reason cited the basis for this decision.This proves we do need CFR: Court Fecklessness Reduction. Briefly stated; the Court must no longer trade in its favored currencies of international approval, the approbation of the left or its own fawning narcissism. One indication of bribery is a certain inconsistency. In this decision, they were well and truly bribed. Referring to the court’s willingness to ignore the fact that most countries have more restrictive abortion laws than the United States, Justice Scalia noted, “To invoke alien law when it agrees with one’s thinking and ignore it otherwise is not reasoned decision making, but sophistry.”http://cf.us.biz.yahoo.com/law/050302/b338c4be2c97e0a840a81bff3a6e66e6_1.html