Reading the transcript and listening to some of the sound bites from Monday's (Sept. 8) arguments before the Supreme Court over the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law again reminds that the real issue isn't about us but them; about the career politicians and not "we the people"; about perpetuating themselves in office, not doing the people's business.
I happen to be on the side of those, including Kenneth Starr and First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams, who argued that people should be able to contribute whatever they want to whomever they wish in the pursuit of their political objectives. So long as those gifts are made public, voters can decide for themselves who is exercising influence over whom and vote accordingly. The idea that politicians who are unscrupulous will somehow become more virtuous if their campaign contributions are restricted is ridiculous. If politicians are corrupted by contributions above a certain level, perhaps their "price" should be listed in the congressional directory along with their college degrees, name of spouse and religious preference. Senator Glut is honest for amounts under $250,000. Congressman Greed can't be had for sums under $100,000. Put them on TV and call it "The Political Price Is Right."
The court should decide this issue on free speech grounds. If right-to-life groups and labor unions wish to solicit funds from members for the purpose of advancing their beliefs and political agenda, and spend whatever amount they choose on getting candidates who subscribe to their views elected, nothing should stop them. Group members, whether Republican or Democrat, should be free to opt out of political causes (and to keep a portion of their dues or membership fees) if they disagree with the organization's leadership. This was supposed to have happened with labor unions, not all of whose members agree with the ultra-liberal agenda many of their leaders pursue, but practically that is not always the case.
Political contributions to activist groups are sometimes the only way a person can make his or her voice heard. This demonstration of individual free speech through a larger bullhorn shouldn't be abridged by Congress or the Supreme Court. Not owning a printing press or a television station or network, what is an individual supposed to do in order to be heard above those who have such access?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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