Thomas Sowell

Do we really want to allow bureaucrats and politicians to be able to harass citizens for expressing political opinions? Or create such a snarl of red tape about contributing money to candidates or causes as to make people reluctant to participate in political activity, for fear of being dragged into federal court over a form that wasn't filled out right?

Who else gains from campaign finance reform besides incumbents? The mass media. Their political biases gain more influence by the silencing of those who could otherwise counter what they say with differing viewpoints. No one is more in favor of campaign finance reform than the media.

What problems are the campaign finance reform zealots trying to solve that are half as bad as the problems they are creating? There is lots of rhetoric but much of it will not stand up under scrutiny.

"There is too much money in politics!" is one frequent question-begging assertion. Too much compared to what? Procter & Gamble has spent as much money advertising soap and other products as all the candidates for Congress in both parties put together spent the same year. More money was spent advertising re-runs of "Seinfeld" than was spent by both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in 1996.

"Money can buy elections!" is another equally shrill cry. But innumerable wealthy candidates -- from William Randolph Hearst in the past to Steve Forbes more recently -- have repeatedly gone down to defeat, despite greatly outspending their opponents.

As the Supreme Court said many years ago, "the concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voices of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment." Or does the First Amendment matter any more?


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate