Paul Jacob
Recommend this article

The Supreme Court did not have enough evidence to justify the law based on the need to reduce actual corruption. (Boy, was I surprised to learn there was any shortage of that!) Instead, the First Amendment "burdens" were justified merely for the goal of reducing the "appearance of corruption."

How does that work exactly? Some guy in Hoboken thinks our elected Congress is corrupt and, therefore, we lose our right to speak against the very gang the guy thinks are crooks?

Of course, the problem is not a lone guy in Hoboken, but the vast majority of thoughtful Americans everywhere, who perceive that something is rotten in D.C.

In a society committed to the concept of innocent until proven guilty, the "appearance of corruption" is a foolish legal concept to begin with. But, the idea is more than foolish, it is treacherous, when used to take away our constitutional rights, destroy political competition and entrench those in power. It is reminiscent of the old Soviet political style in that the process used to diminish the "appearance of corruption" will be to silence voices crying out against corruption.

Meanwhile, under McCain-Feingold, incumbents can still run any ad they want anytime they want, attacking any group or individual they want.

If an independent group has been effective in taking an incumbent to task prior to the approach of an election, when their speech will be silenced, the incumbent could run ads at election time slamming that group and wildly distorting the truth. While spot after spot by the congressman plays on television screens mercilessly smearing the organization, the federal speech Gestapo will be there to make certain that the insolent group is not permitted to air a single ad which dares mention the powerful congressman by name or, heaven forbid, show his or her royal likeness.

So much for the free flow of ideas. Freedom must now be sacrificed to "fairness," as defined by a majority of career politicians in Congress and the unpopular Court.

Furthermore, the implications of the law, and the Court’s expansive interpretation, threaten more than issue ads by groups such as U.S. Term Limits, the Sierra Club or the NRA. I write a daily Common Sense e-letter, which is distributed free to all intelligent, well-informed people. What can I say or not say in the 30 days before a primary and the 60 days before a general election?

We could have a battery of high-priced attorneys look into it. However, it’s easy to judge the new law. If mentioning a congressman’s name in a commentary in any way jeopardizes that congressman’s reelection, the speech will be criminalized. If not, we’re free to pop off.

What about our newsletter? Our web-page? What about mailings and door-to-door activities? Freedom of speech sure was a much less confusing legal standard.

Even radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh expressed concerns about what he can and cannot say on his radio program. Impossible that a Democrat might go to court using McCain-Feingold to silence or harass Rush? You’re stuck in old-think.

Almost as sad as losing our right to speak, is the fact that McCain-Feingold will do nothing to even the playing field or reduce corruption. (For the record, I don’t care about appearances). In the last reporting cycle, under the new McCain-Feingold law, 90 percent of the money raised went to incumbent congressmen. Challengers received only 10 percent of funds raised. Even?

Is Congress any less corrupt after passage of McCain-Feingold? Come on, stop laughing and finish the column.

Yet, the Court wasn’t satisfied with simply upholding this legislative monstrosity, it actually encouraged incumbents in Congress to regularly monkey around with the campaign finance rules to close any new loopholes, i.e. any new ways to address their stranglehold on power.

Justice Scalia, in his dissent, wrote: "Who could have imagined that the same Court which…has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon…virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications and sexually explicit cable programming would smile with favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government."

There is a reason the First Amendment begins with the words, "Congress shall make no law…" Like the McCain-Feingold law that Congress made.

Oh, well, at least for now we are still free to keep copies of that wonderful old relic of a bygone era: the U.S. Constitution. Just for the sentimental value. Our rulers no longer consider it any threat to them.

Recommend this article

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.