Happy Fifth, McCain-Feingold!


Ryan Sager in today's New York Sun, "celebrating " McCain-Feingold's (officially, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act) fifth anniversary. An excerpt:

[See] a statement put out yesterday by the Reform Institute, a non-profit group affiliated with Senator McCain of Arizona. The statement claims that BCRA has "succeeded in its objectives." How so? It "significantly reduced the corrupting influence of campaign contributions and enhanced the participation of small donors in the process."

Let's take those two claims one at a time.

As to the first part, that corruption has been reduced, this is a simple assertion, with not a single piece of evidence to back it up. There's a reason for that: There is no evidence. By what metric does one measure "corruption"? Mr. McCain and his crew couldn't define it before they passed McCain-Feingold; they can't define it now; and, thus, there's no way to measure it. Anyone paying attention to politics in the last couple years, however, would be surprised to find out corruption has been "significantly reduced."…..

As for the enhanced participation of small donors in the political process, here's a question: If Messrs. McCain and Feingold took credit for water running downhill, would that mean they could slap it on their resumes? Small donors are participating more in politics because politicians are learning how to harness the Internet. So, unless Mr. McCain invented the Internet — and not Al Gore as we all learned in our civics textbooks — no one ought to be attributing this development to BCRA.

And then, the real reason politicians love campaign finance law:

McCain-Feingold supporters promised that the bill would curb the scourge of "negative" and "dirty" advertising. "It is about slowing political advertising," [Washington Sen.] Cantwell said during the debate. "Making sure the flow of negative ads by outside interest groups does not continue to permeate the airwaves." Of course, curbing and "slowing" speech critical of politicians by "outside interest groups" (a.k.a. "citizens") is in no way a permissible goal under the First Amendment.

Full column.