The American people should be able to exercise their First Amendment rights without having to think about hiring a lawyer. But that is the direction in which we are headed. In 2004, the non-profit group Wisconsin Right to Life wanted to run grassroots radio and television ads urging people in the state to contact their Senators (which the ads mentioned by name) and ask them to oppose the ongoing filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees. A provision in McCain-Feingold, however, was used to argue that the ads were illegal. Rendering a verdict on what constitutes acceptable political speech is something for voters – not judges – to decide.
So who, other than lawyers trained in the intricacies of federal campaign law, has benefited from McCain-Feingold? Washington's political class. Restricting political speech ultimately hurts those in the greatest need of political speech – challengers to incumbent politicians (thus the joke that McCain-Feingold should be called the "Incumbent Protection Act"). Do we really need Washington politicians doing themselves more favors to protect their jobs?
America has a rich history of protecting speech, and these protections draw on the unambiguous language of the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech." We step into dangerous territory when politicians start eviscerating our fundamental freedoms in the name of amorphous principles, like campaign finance reform. If I am elected President, a top priority will be to push for the repeal of this deeply-flawed measure, and restore the full freedom of political participation and expression to the American people.
Mitt Romney served as the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007 and is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. His campaign website for campaign news and volunteer activities is http://www.mittromney.com/