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If soft money is blocked from 527 groups, much of it may flow to 501 groups. Once 501s' funding is restricted, then individuals' political activities may be regulated. (If George Soros buys too much influence by giving $12 million to a political organization, why let him spend the money himself?) Then the media. (Broadcasts and editorials surely influence elections.) Untethered to any reasonably circumscribed definition of corruption, the law is not just on a slippery slope; the law is a slippery slope.
Here is another plan: Stop. Just stop.
Stop and live with McCain-Feingold for a little while. In law, stability is an important value in and of itself.
Stop and ponder true campaign finance reform, which one more layer of legalistic regulation decidedly is not. Interesting proposals include partial or total deregulation; public financing of campaigns through government subsidies or personal vouchers; creating a system for anonymous donations; and hybrids of the above.
Above all, stop and insist that those who want tighter restrictions on 527s tell us: Where do they propose to stop? "I think we have a right to know at what point people can participate in politics without the FEC coming after them," says Bradley A. Smith, a member of the Federal Election Commission. Can advocates of new restrictions name even one kind of person, organization, or political activity that they believe should be unconditionally off-limits to campaign finance regulators? If they are not required to answer that question now, chances are they never will be.
© Copyright 2005 National Journal
Jonathan Rauch is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal and a frequent contributor to Reason. This article was originally published by National Journal.