Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Discouraging: The Supreme Court actually found the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform law constitutional. In an all-too-common 5-4 vote, Sandra Day "Swing Vote" O'Connor decided that there's too much speech in politics.

I really don't care much about the ban on soft money. No law will ever be able to stop all money from influencing politics, so slowing down the flow of money is nice. This law does place more barriers for non-incumbents and challengers who aren't millionaires from joining the political circus. But it's not like many poor folks are getting much airtime now.

However, the ban on issue ads 60 days before Election Day is terrible. First Amendment protections were designed primarily for political speech. Now speech about politics is getting censored.

Political debate always picks up the weeks before the election. That's when people start paying attention.

The Los Angeles Times didn't run their groper story about Arnold Schwarzenegger until less than a week before the California recall vote. And the revelation of George W. Bush's DUI conviction happened a few days before the 2000 presidential election. That won't be the last time the news media drop a bombshell right before an election. Now political allies won't be able to pay for an ad to defend a candidate as these allegations are made.

Michael Moore plans on releasing a documentary in the fall of 2004 (hmmm) called Fahrenheit 911, making allegations about the Bush family's association with Osama Bin Laden. Depending on when Moore releases the film, it may be illegal for some people to buy ads in reaction to the movie. But since the film is officially a "documentary" and not a political ad, Michael Moore can do whatever he wants.

Although corporations and unions can't pay for ads, news organizations are exempt from the law. But what is a news organization? The only difference between CNN and a press release from Microsoft is the number of viewers. The First Amendment protects freedom of press because the British government would force newspapers to buy licenses in order to publish. If the government didn't like the content of the newspaper, the license was revoked.

Under this law, the U.S. government is deciding what is and what is not a news organization. That goes squarely against the First Amendment. Some schmuck with a pen, paper, and a Xerox machine (or someone with a blog) should have the same rights to free speech and press as The New York Times.

Government shouldn't be telling us what political speech we can and cannot hear. Let the ads air, and we'll make our decisions on our own.


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