Mo' Regulation, Mo' Problems

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Apr 05, 2006 9:50 AM

A vote on House-Republican-pushed 527 reform (H.R. 513) is supposed to take place today around 2 p.m., from what I'm hearing.

The Wall Street Journal ($) has editorialized convincingly against it:

The worst chiselers are House Republicans, who opposed McCain-Feingold back in 2002 on grounds that it was a violation of free speech and wouldn't stop the flow of money in any case. They were right at the time. But this week they are going to try and do John McCain one better, or should we say worse, and vote to curb so-called 527 organizations. These are the funding vehicles that George Soros, Stephen Bing and Harold Ickes have used to (legally) evade McCain-Feingold and help elect liberal Democrats.

The GOP goal is to close these cash-raising machines, which in 2004 and heading into November of this year have been exploited with more skill by the left. Naturally, Democrats are now saying these 527s are a bulwark of free political speech and association. This time they're right, though you'd think that some Democrat somewhere would be red-faced about this egregious switcheroo. But politics means never having to say you're embarrassed.

Seriously, there's nothing tackier than being a sore loser when you didn't even lose. Republicans won in 2004, when conservative 527s were outspent by liberal ones by many, many factors. But the Swift Boat Vets' 527 is arguably one of the principle reasons the Kerry campaign ran aground. Conservatives will only get better at using this new resource to their advantage.

Take, for instance, the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania 527, which is working for conservative victories in an important battleground state. Do we really want to shut them down? Or, Progress for America?

But some House Republicans are unwilling to let the free speech flow until conservatives catch up with liberals in this one event of electoral politics.

Republicans were right when they said McCain-Feingold wouldn't stop the flow of money it was trying so hard to staunch. This reform will do no better a job with 527s. The money will just pop up again through some other loophole and both Dems and Republicans will be stuck playing a perpetual game of "Loophole Whack-A-Mole" at the Chucky Cheese of Failed Campaign Finance Reforms. It is a dismal restaurant with cold pizza where you're not allowed to speak for 30-60 minutes before the food comes.

Who is whacking the mole at any given time will, of course, depend on who all the free speech and the free flow of money happens to be benefitting. Arrgghh, this is why people don't love to get involved in politics.

RSC Chairman Mike Pence had planned to make the reform bill a little more freedomy by amending it with some of the elements of his 527 act, which favors less regulation rather than more, but he was rebuffed.

National Review has also come out against the legislation.

Andy Roth has been on a 527 blogging marathon for the last 60 hours, so if you need any info on this, he's the go-to guy.

The Club for Growth's coalition letter has about 30 signatures representing conservative groups around the capital.

ACU, CAGW, and NTU are all key-voting the legislation.

Just as in the case of McCain-Feingold, this is a problem that doesn't need solving. Just as in the case of McCain-Feingold, this is a solution that will not solve the problem that doesn't need solving. Just stop whacking moles, guys. The only people who like this game are the five campaign finance lawyers who still understand the law, and are paid lots of money to tell the rest of us how to follow it.

UPDATE: Cam Edwards is talking about H.R. 513 on his NRA News show today. Robert Bluey will be on at 3:30-ish, I think.