Paul Jacob

Our first election without the First Amendment is, as Alice put it, "getting curiouser and curiouser."

The Boss has become a major player. Bruce Springsteen, that is, has entered the presidential fray. He has joined a bevy of other popular performers who will use their valuable musical talents in a 34-show, 28-city, nine-swing-state tour to raise money to defeat Republican President George W. Bush and elect Democratic Senator John Kerry.

Under our laws, if Springsteen were to hold concerts to raise money directly for the John Kerry for President campaign, he would be committing a crime. After all, his musical services are valued far in excess of the $2,000 presidential contribution limit. But it's fairly easy for pop stars to work through the new 527s that have sprung up to take the soft money that members of Congress like Mr. Kerry supposedly so disdain. So the law that forbids you and me from giving a penny more than $2,000 directly to George W. Bush or John Kerry does allow the Boss to contribute, in effect, millions.

But don't blame the Boss.

Politics Only for the Professionals

The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform (the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act) was supposed to decrease spending in politics ? especially large contributions from wealthy individuals and interest groups. Would anyone in his or her right mind suggest this has been the result? George Soros alone has donated more than $13 million to anti-Bush 527s.

While so-called reformers may wring their hands about such donations, I do not. I'm fine with the rich supporting their causes, so long as the greater numbers of the less well-off can donate and speak, too. But in the name of sticking it the rich, the reformers have given the rich the right to speak out in ways that average folk cannot.

I wonder if this inequity isn't the very purpose behind the law. As FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said recently, "I don't think sophisticated political actors would have a hard time figuring out how to work within this framework."

No, only unsophisticated political actors ? such as 99 percent of American voters ? hit that wall. The special interests, the political party committees, the incumbents ? along with their entourage of lawyers and accountants ? can nimbly leap right over that wall. Comforting?

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.