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Banned from the ring: Real campaign finance reforms

By Steve Farrell
web posted May 14, 2001

Read Part 1: Rich leftists bankroll John McCain's assault on freedom, and Part 2: The fallacy of absolute electoral equality (new windows open)

Have you ever felt like you were taken for the sucker? If you're like me, you probably feel that way nearly every time you witness a CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, NPR generated discussion panel "duke it out" over one political issue or another.

Typically, the prescreened political athletes engage in nothing more, nothing less, than a controlled debate, a mock exhibition in pugilism - wherein two "bitter" opponents appear incapable of telling us the truth, the whole truth, or anything like the truth. Both of them swing at their target, never hitting it.

Sometimes things really "heat" up, and an honest to goodness patriot is thrown in the ring, but rest assured, he or she will be an absolute street brawling buffoon, or if a legitimate contender - one without a hope or a prayer - as the ever effective 3 on 1 gang-up-on-the-conservative fight plan, guarantees a rare, but bonafide knock out.

Honest politics from this crew? Never. Truth and the political fan lose every time.

The ongoing media and congressional "debate" over campaign finance reform fits this pattern. Consider what you are not hearing:

1. Article 1, Section 9, of the US Constitution prohibits any "person holding any [federal] office . . . [to] accept of any present, emolument [payment] . . . of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state."

To ignore this Constitutional provision is the creme de la creme of campaign finance violations. It is a vital preventative against treason. The outgoing administration violated this very law through its solicitations of campaign funds from Red Chinese sources. In exchange for these "donations," the administration slyly gave away a strategic asset, the Panama Canal; undermined a national energy asset, clean burning coal in Utah; dished out financial assets, Top Secret US trade tips; and failed to protect our most precious military assets, super computers and nuclear secrets - all to the advantage of an avowed enemy.

The question is where's the genuine outrage and investigations, the impeachments and the convictions, the firming up of existing laws by the "reformers?" If there ever was a campaign finance violation that needed to be rectified - this is it. The silence is deafening.

2. The first amendment of the Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

This seems clear enough. No law, means no law. If an age old political standard, an eternal God-given right, prohibits any law which limits political speech, how then does a law which strikes that protection down become a "reform," rather than a radical change?

If we hope to "reform" things, we need to go back to, not away from the Constitution and eliminate all restrictions on how much can be spent on political advertising by individuals, corporations, think tanks, churches, educational associations, and political parties. That's reform. In 1776 The Virginia Declaration of Rights rang out that freedom of speech "is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments." Restraining political speech is not reform, it is despotism.

3. Another inalienable right is that every citizen is innocent until proven guilty, a right which preserves liberty, even while it punishes proven vice. The "reform" movement, on the other hand, propagates the notion that any time "big money" exchanges hands, a crime is committed.

That's quite an assumption.

Bribery is already against the law. If it occurs. Prove it. Enforce it. Imprison the felons. But, never assume every other American is guilty of the same crime, and should, thus, be watched like a hawk, or suffer the same disenfranchisement as the convicted criminal. You can't protect the rights of the innocent by eliminating their rights.

4. In Federalist 51 James Madison, father of our Constitution talked about his hopes of "comprehending in the society so many

separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable." Of this "multiplicity of interests," he felt, the more the merrier.

What's wrong with that? Competing special interest groups are just what the doctor ordered.

The "reformers" don't agree. Having to listen to so many voices forces the campaign-finance "reformers" to have to think, to negotiate, to make the kind of difficult choices they are elected and paid to make. It would be simpler if the only voice they heard was their own. That way they could be free to spend all their time making law. That would make us more free, wouldn't it? The Founders didn't think so. They believed the less lawmaking, the better.

5. Nathaniel Gorham, at the Constitutional Convention, reflected that the need for government revolves around the idea that in nature we find "individuals composed partly of weak, partly of strong, the former most need[ing] the protection of law and government." (1)

The weak make themselves strong by binding themselves together in collectives - whether they be governments, families, clubs, churches, educational associations, co-ops, or, oh yes, corporations, and lobbying groups. It makes sense. It's legal. It's healthy. And it's constitutional. DeToqueville called "the liberty of association . . . a necessary guarantee against the tyranny of the majority . . . [of] a small faction, or . . . [of] a single individual." (2)

Yet, thanks to these "reformers," any time you or I hear the term "special interest group," we think of something bad, don't we? We shouldn't. DeToqueville taught: Associations encourage meaningful political involvement, a sense of community, even patriotism - their removal summons helplessness and withdrawal, alienation and violence, factions and conspiracies. (3)

What, then, are we to deduce of the "reform" movement's notion that collective speech is evil, and only individual speech is good? Just what kind of political change are these "reformers" really after?

6. While the presence of lobby groups galore, free of economic restrictions, are politically healthy for the protection of the rights of the weak and the strong, there are lobby groups today which were created, survive, and do business in a way inconsistent with the protections set forth in the Constitution. These should be fought.

Madison, again in Federalist 51, warns of the possibility of government "creating a will in the community independent of the people," adopted under the "pretext" of securing the rights of the minority.

It is a method, said he, which "prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority." The danger being that "a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties."

In 20th Century thinking, this is the Fascist tactic of creating and sustaining "private" lobby groups through government grants, under the guise of promoting minority rights, when the real goal is to create the illusion of popular support for each new tyrannical measure.

We have the same problem in America today.

Writes Kenneth R. Weinstein, Director of the Government Reform Project at the Heritage Foundation:

"The vast patronage network created by Congress and the federal bureaucracy during the past 40 years is out of control. Each year, American taxpayers fund nearly $39 billion in grants to over 40,000 private organizations, many of which taxpayers might find objectionable or offensive. Even when the advertised purpose of a federal grant seems inoffensive, every federal dollar that an organization receives frees private resources for other uses, including political and lobbying activities in pursuit of ever more government subsidies. Furthermore, most federal grants include an "overhead" allowance that directly subsidizes all of a recipient's activities." (4) [Emphasis added]

With dollar figures which dwarf amounts spent by both political parties in any election cycle, what can be deduced from this gravy train to "private" groups, other than to say, this is big money, big influence, and big government coercion at its worst. DeToqueville would have called this "a perversion of the right to association," for this is not natural association, but a government sponsored fraud masquerading as public opinion.

Yet, where is the protest from the current "reformers?" They make war on the truly independent, private lobbyist; and make love with the utterly dependent, federally funded ones. The bottom line, dependency is better. It re-elects liberal incumbents, and creates unnatural, but sustained support for more big government, more big subsidies, and more socialism. You can count on it.

7. Dating back to James Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance" against Religious Assessments, in 1785, it was deemed a violation of both free speech, and religious liberty to force people to subsidize the promulgation of religious and social issues they oppose. (5)

It was one thing to permit all religious views to be free to weigh in the political debate - a blessing to liberty - and quite another to lend financial support to one or more of those faiths, or even Christianity collectively, through the force of government taxation. Force and faith, taught Madison, Jefferson and John Adams, were diametric. When government is given authority to invade that area of conscience, most sacred, and most personal - political and spiritual tyranny follows, and non-believers are more fully convinced, never to believe. (6)

Benjamin Franklin, put it this way: "When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and . . . [is] obliged to call for the help of the civil power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of it being a bad one." (7)

Enter faith-based subsidies.

Will they not breed an endless number of bad faiths, of Jesse Jackson-like Rainbow Coalitions, which under the cloak of serving the downtrodden, will use government grants to incite class hatred, undermine faith, freedom, and forgiveness, dispute election results, and serve as launching pads for political revolution?

They will.

This Fascist, Third Way approach to private public partnerships counterfeits religious support for political issues and parties. But worse, because it seeks a legal partnership between the state and the worst of religious societies, fanaticism and fierce intolerance will all the more likely arise as acceptable, perhaps vital elements in public life, as was the case in Nazi Germany. Wait and see.

Again, where are the "reformers?" Why don't they demand that faith-based subsidies be halted, now? This is why: The founders and your faith be damned. The "reformers" and the religious worship of the state be praised. Bottom line, this will be but another tool to buy votes and support liberalism via your dollars.

8. Finally, there is the issue of negative campaigning. What has long been regarded as a sacred right to speak out, as well as the duty of responsible citizenship to view government with an eye of suspicion, these "reformers," defenders of the what they call the "civil society," have declared, an unpardonable sin.

Supposedly, today's political debates are dirtier, and thus in need of a standard of law different from the one our forefathers bequeathed to us. The Founders didn't foresee how the debate would deteriorate. So they claim.

Banning political advertising in the last sixties before an election, will eliminate last minute, dirty pot shots.

But mud slinging has always been the order of the day in politics. Jefferson wrote long ago, "I deplore...the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed and the malignity, the vulgarity, and the mendacious spirit of those who write for them." He knew its source too: "the violence and malignancy of party spirit." (7)

Jefferson, of all people, knew this. He was its victim. As a Presidential candidate Jefferson was accused of being everything from an atheist to a womanizer. Yet, unlike today's "reformers," he looked beyond personal interest, and stood up boldly, never relenting, as one of free speeches staunchest advocates.

"Error of opinion may be tolerated," he wrote, "where reason is left free to debate it." (9) Reason prevailed, and he was elected. But it might not have prevailed. And that was OK too - for there was the greater danger of the people ceding to government the right to define truth or legitimate political speech. Once ceded, he argued, who then could check the government?

No one, and that was his point.

The "reformers" know better, however. "Reformers," always do.

Conclusion

Campaign-finance "reformers" and their propagandists in the media have fixed the fight and fooled the crowd. With controlled debates and weak defenses of the US Constitution, radical change is being passed off as reform, while legitimate threats to our liberties are being ignored.

  • True campaign-finance reform would demand fresh, aggressive investigations of Red Chinese and all other foreign influence pedaling and bribery.
  • It would demand stiff sentences for any and all who might be convicted, as a result.
  • It would remove all financial caps and all other attempts to regulate or monitor private political speech.
  • It would outlaw all government grants to private agencies, churches, and individuals (including personal and corporate welfare - which also buys votes).
  • It would shut up about assumed guilt in the citizenry and the negative influence of true private special interests groups.

All of this it would do. But if it doesn't. If the "reformers" go ahead and pass their "reform" package as is: with its restraints on money, with its restrictions on political adds during the last 60 days of elections, with its communist-like monitoring of who said what, when, and at what cost, and with its Third Way civil society disdain for "negative" political speech - rest assured, reformers, they are not - radicals, they are.

NewsMax contributing columnist Steve Farrell is the former managing editor of Right Magazine, a former Air Force communications security manager, a widely published research writer, and a graduate student in Constitutional Law. He resides in Henderson, Nev. Contact Steve at Cyours76@yahoo.com

Footnotes

1. Madison, James. "Journal of the Federal Convention, Vol.1," Pg. 261-263
2. de Tocqueville, Alexis. "Democracy in America, Vol.1," Pg.194 - Pg.195
3. Ibid., 194 - 196, Vol.2, Pg.114-118, 119-122.
4. Weinstein, Kenneth R. "Organized Crime, Organized Labor, and Corruption of the Federal Grants Process." The Heritage Foundation, Government Integrity Project Report No. 10, July 31, 1996. http://www.heritage.org/library/categories/govern/gip10.html
5. Cousins, Norman. "In God We Trust: The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers." New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1958, pg. 308-314.
6. Ibid., pg. 80, 81, 85, 139, 125-127 (Act for Religious Freedom 1786), 255-256. Madison's statement in "Memorial and Remonstrance," is among the best, against government subsidies for any and all faiths: "Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself; for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them; and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence, and the ordinary care of Providence: Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence, and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies, to trust it to its own merits. . . [Thus], the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity."
7. Gaustad, Edwin Scott. "A Religious History of America." New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco, London: Harper & Row Publishers, 1966, 1974, p. 120.
8. As quoted in Mason, David M., Senior Fellow. "Repealing The First Amendment: "The Campaign Finance Reform Constitutional Amendment" The Heritage Foundation Issue Bulletin #230 March 13, 1997

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • Will McCain-Feingold backfire on liberals? by Richard A. Viguerie and Steve J. Allen (April 9, 2001)
    Democrats are counting on campaign finance reform to put a stake in Republican fundraising. Richard A. Viguerie and Steve J. Allen say it might actually do the exact opposite
  • McCain-Feingold First Amendment reform by W. James Antle III (April 9, 2001)
    John McCain is right, there is something broken with the current system, but W. James Antle III says his campaign finance reform efforts aren't the solution
  • McCain pushing for "disclosure" of contributions by Paul M. Weyrich (July 10, 2000)
    Disclosure is generally a fine idea, writes Paul M. Weyrich, but not always. John McCain's fight for more disclosure will end up harming the system, not mend it
  • Money to buy nothing by Michael R. Allen (February 7, 2000)
    A chance encounter with pro-campaign finance reform activists spurs Michael R. Allen to defend big money contributions




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