The trillion-dollar loophole in 'campaign finance

Ann Coulter

3/22/2001 12:00:00 AM - Ann Coulter
In a little-known section of the campaign finance laws, oil companies are completely exempted from spending restrictions. They alone can donate as much money as they see fit, directly to candidates, in thinly disguised "issue advertising," or coordinated expenditures. And spend they do. Year in, year out, oil companies lavish billions of dollars on advertisements promoting their pet politicians and sponsoring vicious negative attack ads on the politicians they oppose.

It is no accident that the very first bill taken up by the U.S. Senate would extend the oil companies' restrictive covenant prohibiting others from competing with these enormous, vile, polluting conglomerates.

Except it's not really oil companies. The exemption is for a much more powerful, vile, polluting conglomerate known as the news media. Section 431(9)(B)(i) of the campaign finance laws wholly exempts from the definition of campaign expenditure: "any news story, commentary or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication."

That's why the media love the McCain-Feingold bill. That's why "campaign finance reform" became the first order of business in the U.S. Senate this term. That's also why the suppression of political speech by anyone but the news media is popularly known as "reform" rather than "anti-competitive legislation protecting an industry cartel."

If campaign expenditures aren't "speech," why is an exception for the news media necessary?

There can be no meaningful reform of campaign finance laws until this completely undeserved monopoly granted by law to a single, repellant, self-serving industry is repealed. Strip the media of their exemption from the campaign finance laws under section 431(9)(B)(i). Then we'll see how enthusiastic they are about such genius McCain-Feingold "reforms" as banning any mention of a federal candidate for 60 days before an election.

More important, there can't even be meaningful debate of campaign finance laws until the Section 431(9)(B)(i) loophole is closed. In the past week, a hard-news item in The New York Times compared John McCain to Don Quixote ("the quixotic Arizona Republican tilts at the political money establishment"); Time magazine referred to McCain as "a chipper warrior," a man "who forgave the Vietnamese despite his captors' hanging him by his broken arms"; and the New York Daily News called McCain simply "the Vietnam War hero."

Liberals can never just make a principled argument. It has to be Bambi against Hitler.

Needless to say, with this sort of rigorous debate taking place in the adversary press, the arguments have been sharpened to a razor's edge. Sen. Joe Lieberman said the country needs campaign finance reform because the current system is "discouraging a lot of people from coming out and voting." Discouraging people from voting? Why not claim campaign finance reform will rescue the Nasdaq?

Even Bill Clinton's favorite journalist, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times (as Clinton told Brill's Content), described Lieberman's insane assertion as "a really hard argument to make." But Brownstein said "the larger point the senator made" -- that we need campaign finance reform -- "is correct."

That occurred on "CNN Sunday" in a program that presented a total of three opinions: Two from enthusiastic proponents of the McCain-Feingold bill and one from the guy who pronounced Lieberman's "larger point" -- buried within an idiocy -- "correct."

On the same day, ABC's "This Week" had precisely one guest on campaign finance reform. Guess which side he was on? Campaign finance "reform" supporter Warren Buffett was hammered with such tough questions from the adversary press as: "I love your analysis" and "So it's a shakedown?" Also that day, CBS' "Face the Nation" balanced two supporters of McCain-Feingold against yet another supporter of campaign finance reform -- albeit not the McCain-Feingold bill.

Evidently, everyone supports the media's exalted role as the sole disseminators of political information. Everyone, that is, except a few self-serving and presumptively corrupt U.S. senators. (No Don Quixotes they.) Americans are clamoring for more restrictions on their speech. Stop us before we speak again!

A typical news report on McCain-Feingold stated that the defeat of the McCain-Feingold bill would preserve "a status quo that might frustrate Americans but serve politicians." The news report sadly continued that "despite the taint of scandal, the American people might not care enough to force change."

But deep down, according to the media, the "American people" support the media 100 percent!

Meanwhile, in endless polls of the long-suffering "American people," campaign finance reform has never ranked among their top 10 concerns. Taxes are always in the top 10. But the Senate isn't considering Bush's tax cut. It's spending two weeks on a special-interest bill to expand one industry's monopoly on information. At least if the oil companies were granted a monopoly by the government, the media would report it.