If the last national elections were memorable at all, it was largely due to the influence of the "527 groups" such as Swift Boats Vets for Truth, Move On, etc., who operated outside the major parties and rarely pulled their punches (read: blows both high and low) when it came to political discourse. Given that such groups leaned heavily toward the Dems ($265 million vs. $154 million sez the Wash Post), it's no wonder the Reps are now trying to hamstring them as the midterm elections draw near. As the Post reports:
As part of the House GOP proposals, "527" organizations that operate independently of the political parties would no longer be allowed to collect unlimited sums from individuals. Democratic-leaning 527s have accepted tens of millions of dollars from such wealthy backers as investor George Soros and insurance mogul Peter B. Lewis.
Instead, the groups would be governed by federal campaign finance laws that would restrict such giving to a total of $30,000 from individuals per year. By contrast, during the 2004 election cycle, Soros gave $27 million and Lewis gave nearly $24 million to Democratic-oriented 527 groups, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan research company.
Deep Irony Alert: We can in most ways thank Sen. John McCain, the rageaholic from the great state of Arizona, for the rise of 527s, whose influence, if not actual existence, is largely a function of his idiotic (and idiotically popular) notion of "campaign reform" (also known as "abridgements to the First Amendment"). McCain has railed against 527s, even as he waxed elegantly about them back in 2001, telling the Post, "I'm glad a guy with a billion dollars, or two billion dollars, wants to spend is money on an issue he feels strongly about."
Since when is more political speech bad political speech? Perhaps this latest flap will convince more Americans that campaign-finance reform is never about getting "the money out of politics" (the usual rationale). Rather, it's about getting challenges to power out of politics.
If you don't believe that, then check out Reason's bits with Bradley Smith, former head of the Federal Election Commission here.
And when people–including Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner, who's leading the charge now against 527s–start talking about how "disclosure" is the key to fair and open elections, consider these two tidbits. First, anonymous political speech is what made America not just great but possible in the first place (and it's one of the reasons why Boehner's home state of Ohio, like two dozen other states, have banned it at various times). Second, and more important, disclosure regulations are regularly used to smack down political dissent. Read all about that here.