Censoring Political Speech

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Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson nails the absurb, stupid, ridiculous, dangerous, McCain-Feingold Political Speech Censorship Act of 2002.

"We have entered an era of constitutional censorship. Hardly anyone wants to admit this—the legalized demolition of the First Amendment would seem shocking—and so hardly anyone does," writes Samuelson.

Of course, Reason has long "admitted" that McCain-Feingold is an unconstitutional abridgement of free speech.

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  1. it can join in the continuing abridgement of the entire document — all part of the revolution within the form. the only thing that amuses me about it is the continuing profession of the american people to live under a “free constitutional republic”.

    a lot of people are going to be very surprised the first time an american president blows away the smokescreen and reveals that, behind the facade of constitution, the structure of the government has been gutted.

  2. And to think that Cornel West guy was worried about… whatever it was he was worried about. Something to do with free speech.

  3. Gaius, badass.

    I cant wait.

  4. My name is pigwiggle and I endorse this post.

  5. I used to support campaign finance reform. I still support the notion that you shouldn’t be able to write a big fat check to a politician and then after the election, well, wouldn’t you know it, your company gets a big fat government contract. Or a law is passed that “deregulates” your portion of an industry while subjecting competitors to even more regulation. Purely coincidence, of course.

    The problem is that in trying to throw out that bathwater we threw out a lot of babies, and the tub still seems full of dirty water (look at how much money Bush and Kerry have raised).

    I now reluctantly oppose most campaign finance regulations.

  6. Oh, I forgot to add that my screen name is thoreau and I endorse that post.

  7. If Cornell West is worried about anything, it is that we still have too many avenues for spending our own money to broadcast our views.

  8. Well, why not? Why should the First be treated any better than the Tenth?

  9. The more I am learning about McCain-Feingold the more faulty this act is. I wish they’d have an act that limits campaigning to 5-6 months

  10. gaius —

    What the hell are you talking about?

  11. thoreau: “I used to support campaign finance reform. I still support the notion that you shouldn’t be able to write a big fat check to a politician and then after the election, well, wouldn’t you know it, your company gets a big fat government contract. Or a law is passed that “deregulates” your portion of an industry while subjecting competitors to even more regulation.”

    Maybe the solution is for every bill, and every rider leeching onto each bill, to be accompanied in the Federal Register and the US Code with lists of sponsors and yea-voters and the identities of their donors who will benefit, with their donation amounts.

    ie, “This bill was sponsored by Congressman Mugwump. It is expected to benefit ACME corp, which donated $130,000 to Congressman Mugwump.”

  12. Jon: That’s the sort of thing a free press is supposed to expose.

  13. CNBC ran a viewer poll the other day on the question “Should third parties be allowed to run negative ads during the campaign?”. I didn’t get to hang around for the result. I’m betting at least 30% of the people who responded answered “No”.

    Mind you, I have been against campaign finance “reform” from day one, but seeing that question on TV, put in those words, was _damn_ scary.

  14. Ronald Bailey,

    How far should the First Amendment be read?

  15. Yeah, a big part of the problem is that the press does not hold these people’s feet to the fire. They need to start shaming politicians on tv. A tv show called “Who is bought?” and more exposes on lobbying would be quite nice. It’s obscene that Tom Daschle’s wife is a lobbyist on Capitol Hill and that family members get lobbying jobs. And that the press ignores this.

  16. “gaius —

    What the hell are you talking about?”

    Crusader Rabbit,

    Usually it’s best not to try to think too hard about gaius’ posts…

  17. “This bill was sponsored by Congressman Mugwump. It is expected to benefit ACME corp, which donated $130,000 to Congressman Mugwump.” – Jon

    The problem here is that ACME corp can benefit from what is objectively a good bill, something like the elimination of US taxes on overseas corporate earnings. Furthermore ACME’s people may be contributing to Mugwump because they like what he believes not that they expect to get a particular favor out of him. It is the conventional wisdom that political contributions cannot be made for honest reasons that is wrecking free speech.

    Scepticism is a very useful tool in examining politics, but when it develops into bitter cynicism, seeing wrongdoing in every exercise other’s civil rights. It destroys the respect for those rights, and allows for abominations like McCain-Feingold to destroy them piecemeal.

  18. More irrational rhetoric. BCRA did not impact 527s or non-profit associations, as McConnell v. SEC eplicitly noted. It focused on contributions to Parties, not independent groups, though the limits on electioneering speech in the last month of a campaign may apply to some groups.

    Changing the way speech takes place by separating it from the Parties doesn’t significantly affect the level of speech, except for increasing its legitimacy. Lawsuits alleging coordination are not attacking speech, they are attacking the coordination.

    Liberals are too eager to assume that government can solve everything, libertarians are too eager to assume that government wrecks everything, and conservatives are too eager to prove libertarians correct.

    As an aside, samuel m, I responded to your post re: slavery/taxation here.

  19. Liberals are too eager to assume that government can solve everything, libertarians are too eager to assume that government wrecks everything, and conservatives are too eager to prove libertarians correct.

    for the ages! garlands for you, dave!

  20. Liberals are too eager to assume that government can solve everything, libertarians are too eager to assume that government wrecks everything, and conservatives are too eager to prove libertarians correct.

    Yes, only conservatives fuck everything up.

  21. “and conservatives are too eager to prove libertarians correct.”

    That seems especially true now because we have a “conservative” president who, in many respects, governs like a liberal.

  22. Geotech,

    Liberals fuckup by overreaching, libertarians by underreaching, conservatives by design.

  23. “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”

    George Washington

  24. Thoreau writes:

    “I still support the notion that you shouldn’t be able to write a big fat check to a politician and then after the election, well, wouldn’t you know it, your company gets a big fat government contract. Or a law is passed that “deregulates” your portion of an industry while subjecting competitors to even more regulation. Purely coincidence, of course.”

    There are several problems with this. The first is that any organization, company or even individual tends to support candidates that have similar views on what government should do. Whis it’s entirely conceivable (and has unquestionably occurred in the past) that there are direct payoffs, empowering government to make what will inevitably amount to almost arbitraray decision regarding which candidates are doing quid pro quos and which are simply acting on their conscience is an extraordinarily poor and unworkable solution.

    Second, even if that was true in every case, politicians blatanly attempt to buy votes at every opportunity; why is the reverse inherently corrupt? Republicrats appeal to voters by saying that they’ll hire men with guns to take someone else’s money and give it to . How is that qualitatively different than the reverse?

    And third, the only real way to solve this problem is to return to a constitutional government, where the power that folks try to buy simply doesn’t exist. Dancing around that will never accomplish anything.

  25. I guess carrot brackets don’t work. The third paragraph should say: … take someone else’s money and give it to (insert host of current speaking engagement here).

  26. The problem, Matthew, is not the feelings of the people writing the checks. The problem is structural – politicians who look out for well-funded interests groups have a serious leg up on those who do not, or who look out for their opponents, or who look out for the interests of those who can’t make big donations.

  27. Liberals are too eager to assume that government can solve everything, libertarians are too eager to assume that government wrecks everything, and conservatives are too eager to prove libertarians correct.

    I think this is one of the funniest and most astute things I’ve read on this forum lately!

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