Paul Jacob

What? You don't have your own attorney on retainer? How on earth do you plan to take part in our elections, then?

Perhaps, in the throes of this nasty season, we should change our country's slogan from "The land of the free and the home of the brave" to "Land of 10,000 lawyers." But, of course, there are so many more lawyers than that.

Don't get me wrong. My beef isn't with attorneys, but with the need to consult attorneys every time an American citizen would like to open his or her mouth to say something political. Or worse, a group of citizens band together to say something more effectively.

How did this come about?

Congress sacrificed the First Amendment on the altar of Pristine Elections; the Supreme Court donned black robes and cheered the ritual killing. Though no reasonable person could square the McCain-Feingold Act ? the instrument of the sacrifice ? with the clear language of the First Amendment, that inconvenience was ignored. The sacrifice of liberty, you see, was supposed to usher in an election process without "negative" ads and empower the little guy, too.

Feel empowered?

Feel all that "positivity"?

Now, the failure of McCain-Feingold to squelch negative ads should be looked at as a blessing. I want to hear the whole argument of all sides. Bring on the Swift Boat Vets, bring on George Soros, Sinclair Broadcasting, and everybody else. I really want to hear what they have to say and I don't want my information ethically cleansed by some tribunal of commissars in Washington. Or in my state capitol.

The McCain-Feingold deal of handing over freedom to get sweet and pleasant elections didn't quite come off. Not only is negativity thriving, the "little guy" seems as beleaguered as ever. More money than before ? not less ? is being spent by the very wealthiest to speak out. Some have even given tens of millions ? not that there's anything wrong with it, as Seinfeld would say.

Meanwhile, no matter how strongly the universally trumpeted "little guy" believes in his candidate, being unable to afford a battery of attorneys and consultants, he cannot donate more than $2,000. Fair? Empowering the little guy?

This certainly hasn't taken the money out of politics. It's merely squelched the money and speech of some people so that others may spend and spend ? and scream.

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.