Gag order

Tonight at midnight your freedom of speech will be taken down a notch. The organizations to which you contribute, or even just agree with, will be gagged politically by one of the most onerous provisions of the McCain-Feingold travesty. It could be the National Organization for Women or the National Rifle Association; The Sierra Club or National Right to Life – none of them can fund broadcast advertising that mentions the name of Congressional incumbents seeking re-election in November. At 24:00 that speech is officially banned. After the election, they can go back to advocating their causes.

The rule does not seem to apply to individuals with sufficient funds. George Soros, for example.

John McCain and George Bush presided over the hatching of this law with the able assistance of a Supreme Court that could not read the plain language of the Constitution. What part of “shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” did SCOTUS not understand? Perception of penumbras of corruption emanated from their brainpans; which weren’t doing much else that day anyway.

Bloggers have been offered shelter under the umbrella of the “press exemption”, which can be changed at the whim of the Federal Election Commission. I think publishing paid political advertising remains a violation, and I am available for a nominal fee. It should be high enough to challenge the law, however.

Ryan Sager has been at the forefront of reporting on this topic, and it is only fair we hear from him now:

The logic behind these restrictions is that ads about particular bills in Congress might really be “sham-issue advertising” – with the real aim of electing or defeating a candidate for office. And, therefore, the money used to buy those ads might really be an illegal and unregistered campaign contribution.

But the years since McCain-Feingold’s passage have shown that, whatever supposed risk of corruption may lie in allowing issue ads to run unfettered, there’s simply no way to regulate unwanted speech without restricting perfectly legitimate speech.

Plus, there’s a tremendous arrogance in the idea of even trying to determine what speech is legitimate and what is unwanted. Who gets to decide? The answer is simple: Incumbents (a k a congressmen) do. And their only agenda is to hold onto what they’ve got: their incumbency.

Meanwhile, for two elections now (2004 and 2006), grass-roots groups will have gone without their basic constitutional right to criticize their government.

It’s time for this farce to end, but, for now, there’s no end in sight.