George Will

WASHINGTON -- If in November Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives, April 5 should be remembered as the day they demonstrated that they earned defeat. Traducing the Constitution and disgracing conservatism, they used their power for their only remaining purpose -- to cling to power. Their vote to restrict freedom of speech came just as the GOP's conservative base is coming to the conclusion that House Republicans are not worth working for in October or venturing out to vote for in November.

     The ``problem'' Republicans addressed is that in 2004 Democrats were more successful than Republicans in using 527 organizations -- advocacy groups named after the tax code provision governing them. In 2002, McCain-Feingold banned large ``soft money'' contributions for parties -- money for issue-advocacy and organizational activities, not for candidates. In 2004, to the surprise of no sensible person and most McCain-Feingold supporters, much of the money -- especially huge contributions from rich liberals -- was diverted to 527s. So on April 5, House Republicans, easily shedding what little remains of their ballast of belief in freedom and limited government, voted to severely limit the amounts that can be given to 527s.

     David Dreier, R-Calif., explained, sort of. He said he voted against McCain-Feingold because ``dictating who could give how much to whom'' violated the First Amendment, but now he favors dictating to 527 contributors because McCain-Feingold is not violating the First Amendment enough: It is not ``working as it was intended.'' That is, it is not sufficiently restricting the money financing political advocacy.

     Candice Miller, R-Mich., said that restricting 527s would combat ``nauseating ugliness, negativity and hyperpartisanship.'' Oh, so that is what the First Amendment means: Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech unless speech annoys politicians.

     Improving the tone of politics, leveling the playing field, fulfilling the intent of McCain-Feingold -- the reasons for expanding the restrictions on political advocacy multiply.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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