Paul Jacob

The campaign finance laws are not working.

There is still "money in the system." There are still people out there who if not allowed to speak in one way will speak in another. There are still people out there who endeavor to advance their political causes in a way that communicates their ideas to more than just the other people in the same room. And who are willing to spend money to do this...thereby disrupting the mythically "even" political-speech playing field that turf-protecting incumbents say they want to achieve.

But the only way to "solve" this "problem" of the uneven playing field is to eliminate political speech altogether. That is the only way to stop various speakers from propagating amounts of political speech that vary wildly with respect to the amounts of political speech propagated by other speakers. Just as it is impossible to communize economic life in the phantasmagorical manner dreamed up by the socialists, so it is impossible to communize political speech--or any sector of human activity.

What is possible, however, is to destroy across the board. If everybody is muzzled, if nobody is allowed to talk or to spend money on talking, we can certainly achieve the dream of equal--i.e., zero--political-speech opportunity for all. A well-timed spread of hydrogen bombs should do the trick.

Of course, "evening the playing field" is not necessarily or even probably the goal of those incumbents who push for ever more restrictive campaign finance regulation. Incumbents enjoy advantages over most challengers that would allow them to stay way ahead in the game even if candidates were allowed to spend only ten dollars per election cycle. It's a lot easier for the incumbents to get on the evening news. It is the incumbents who have the franking mail privilege, which lets them send printed campaign ads to constituents at taxpayer expense. It is the incumbents who have the power to legislatively bribe interest groups.

And it is, of course, congressional incumbents who passed the recent McCain-Feingold "campaign finance reform" that includes a provision for muzzling groups who mention the names of candidates on TV ads that air too close to election day. (TV is an important means of political communication because everybody watches TV.) Congressman Dick Gephardt has blandly conceded that such campaign finance regulation is antithetical to the first amendment and unfettered political speech--and seems to think that it's the first amendment that must be junked, therefore. Whatever you say--Dick.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.