Skip to comments.Are some ads more equal than others? Time to pass 'first amendment restoration act'
Posted on 08/26/2004 2:51:43 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
Since we devoted an entire editorial Wednesday to denouncing a political ad aimed at Ken Salazar by the Virginia-based Americans for Job Security, permit us now to say a word on behalf of such independent advocacy groups. In just one week's time, their constitutional right to free speech will be curtailed by the single gravest assault on civil liberties approved by Congress during the past four years.
No, not the Patriot Act. We refer to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, aka McCain-Feingold.
After Sept. 2, believe it or not, Americans for Job Security will be barred from mentioning Salazar's name (or that of any other candidate) in an ad. It will be prohibited from doing so even if it wants to say only good things on a candidate's behalf. That's because McCain-Feingold bars many independent groups from referring to candidates for federal office in their ads 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. Why? The crude but truthful answer is that politicians resent criticism and given the opportunity will try to silence it. And most such ads are negative.
In recent years independent political ads have become an ever more prominent part of elections, in part because of laws restricting contributions to candidates. Egged on by campaign reform advocates, Congress decided to suppress this expression of independent political speech - hence the 30- and 60-day rules in McCain-Feingold. The law was signed by President Bush and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the most disappointing decisions in years.
No one disputes that the nation's founders meant to protect political speech when they wrote the First Amendment. And yet under McCain-Feingold, the free-speech portion of the First Amendment has effectively been rewritten to state that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech except when it refers to a clearly identified federal candidate in the 30 days before a primary election or 60 days before a general election."
Fortunately, not every member of Congress has joined the conspiracy to silence independent criticism. At least 76 members of the House (including Colorado's Marilyn Musgrave and Tom Tancredo) and a handful of senators have so far signed on to the First Amendment Restoration Act, sponsored by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. This measure would repeal the portions of McCain-Feingold that restrict the right of some groups to refer to candidates in political advertising.
Perhaps you're wondering whether McCain-Feingold will affect the ads run by so-called 527 groups, including Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. Will the swift boat veterans be barred from mentioning John Kerry by name after Sept. 2?
Apparently not. The 527s were organized precisely to get around McCain-Feingold limits, and the Federal Election Commission has issued rules that won't restrict them until 2005. Swift Boat Veterans For Truth and the better-funded anti-Bush 527s can thus continue to lambaste candidates right through election day.
That's as it should be. Free-wheeling speech is the hallmark of American politics and most of us had naively assumed it could never be abridged. Now that it has been, it's time to rev up the movement to restore the First Amendment.
The Swifties are a tiny 527, with less than $1 million raised so far. Most of the big ones, such as the anti-Bush attack dog MoveOn.org, align with the Democrats (see table).
And the fat cats funding the right aren't in the same league with billionaires like George Soros, who are throwing their wealth into the cause of defeating Bush. ...***
I couldn't agree more with the author.
Article posted this morning said the Swifties were up to $2 million received. A good news update in case anyone missed it.
Will they really be stopped?
Somehow, I don't think so. I think that many of these 527's are going to deliberately test those waters to 1) generate the case to get the law tossed as unconstitutional and/or 2) find the 'exceptions' to the law so they can just walk right around it.
sKerry tried to stop the Swifties ads through the courts. It had no effect. I think this years 527 activity might be the inroad to debilitating McCrony/Findthegold CFR. I am anxious to see what happens, in the next few weeks and immediately following the election, when certain ads are required to stop airing.
There are always "exceptions" to a law. One needs only to find and exploit it.
The McCain bill has to be repealed. In the courts if possible. If not in the courts then in the streets.
If politicians, and the courts, can abridge one of our rights they can abridge all of them.