Incessant allegations about the ``appearance'' of corruption are self-validating -- they create a public impression of corruption. Such allegations enable the reform movement to keep raising money and raising doubts about the sufficiency of government regulations, however numerous, of speech about government. Hence reformers have a powerful incentive to argue two propositions.
One is that corruption is so pervasive and subtle it is invisible. They resemble the zealots who say proof of the vast sophistication of the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy is the fact that no proof has been found.
Alternatively, reformers argue that corruption is entirely visible everywhere: It is called politics. If politician A votes in a way pleasing to contributor B -- particularly if B enjoyed ``access'' to A -- that shall be designated corruption. Never mind abundant research demonstrating that money usually moves toward politicians of particular behavior, rather than changing behavior.
Although many reformers say ``corruption'' is secret, hence they cannot be expected to document it, some serious corruption is hardly hidden. It is in the legislative history of McCain-Feingold. Bob Bauer, a Democratic campaign lawyer, notes that the law, although marketed as a measure for clean government, was an opportunity for incumbents' self-aggrandizement. They exploited the opportunity, enacting special protections against wealthy opponents, and ``blackouts'' on much pre-election advertising. These they justified as enabling them to control the content of political discourse in election seasons, and enabling them, as Bauer says, to ``avoid the indignity of `negative' ads directed against them.''
The ``appearance of corruption'' rationale, by which incumbents justify writing laws for their convenience, is threadbare. So reformers increasingly argue (see their justifications for restricting citizens' ``527'' groups) that regulating the timing, amount and content of political advocacy is necessary to improve the tone of politics. So that is what Madison meant: ``Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech -- unless incumbents think abridgements will elevate speech about themselves.''
Reformers say that government regulation of campaign giving and spending will not only spare our leaders the distraction of the governed seeking ``undue'' influence on government, it also will make us think better of government. But a jaundiced view of government is often sensible, and certainly it is justified by campaign regulation, which has become a particularly virulent form of the disease it purports to cure.
Wife of US Pastor Held in Iran: 'I Never Thought I’d Have to Battle My Own Gov't For My Husband’s Freedom' | Leah Barkoukis
Politifact: On Second Thought, Obama's 'Keep Your Plan' Pledge is 2013's 'Lie of the Year' | Guy Benson
Conservatives Clash as House Prepares to Vote on Ryan-Murray Budget Deal -- UPDATE: House passes 332-94 | Guy Benson
New White House Push: Sign Up For Obamacare Because It Will Give Your Mother "Piece of Mind" | Daniel Doherty
Heartbreaking: Dad Gives Up Trying to Obtain Health Insurance For His Ailing Son on the Exchanges | Daniel Doherty