Snippets from Jeff Lindsay:

Decapitating the First Amendment
with "Campaign Reform"

Can you imagine living in a society where it is illegal to express opinions about political leaders? Can you imagine police entering your home and carrying you away for something you wrote that criticized a political leader or party? That's a reality in places like Cuba, where attempts to exercise basic God-given rights can get you thrown in jail.

Freedom of speech is despised by tyrants, whose goal is to maintain total power and control over their subjects. And the purpose of our First Amendment is not to support the porn business, but to protect citizens from the tyranny of government, which must continually be scrutinized and criticized by an informed citizenry who can freely speak out and be heard. The right to criticize political leaders is an essential aspect of the First Amendment and of basic human liberty anywhere.

Are we too stupid to understand this? Too apathetic to care? Or just too uninformed to know what the McCain-Feingold bill is all about? It passed 59-41 on April 2nd, 2001. It's House version, the Shays-Meehan bill, H.R. 380, is likely to pass as well. The result could very well be one of the most dangerous steps toward government tyranny ever seen in this nation.

The premise of McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan is that there is not enough control over how money is spent in politics, allowing powerful special interests to control elections. McCain says he supports the bill because "average citizens are being deprived of their right of free speech when the megaphone is held by those with big money" (quoted at CNN.com, April 3, 2001). So when citizens can't spend "big money" anymore, who is left holding the megaphone? Think hard - who has the megaphone now? The media and those already in power.

Feingold and McCain argue that we need to give more power to government (and that's BIG government) to control campaign financing, especially advertisements with political content. Currently, if an issue is of concern to citizens, they can spend lots of their own money to speak out. If we can stop that nuisance, then most of what we hear will be from the liberal-dominated media or from the politicians already in power. They both have access to tremendous unregulated resources. Restricting competing sources of information helps both parties by cutting the costs of doing business - but it shuts down private citizens and those who disagree with the two dominant parties. (For analysis on why the Republicans would join Democrats in this sham bill, see the essay by Dr. Lenora Fulani at WorldNetDaily.com.)

Amazingly, H.R. 380 seeks to regulate not just normal campaign ads like those paid for by a campaign committee, but also any communications that include "words that in context can have no reasonable meaning other than to advocate the election or defeat of one or more clearly identified candidates." How would this language be construed? Could it shut down a Web site that criticized a politician? Stop the distribution of voting record information that an incumbent found embarrassing? Yes! The authors of the Shays-Meehan bill clearly foresaw this possibility, and added deceptive language to assuage our fears about such abuse. The bill includes a "voting record and voting guide exception" which says that a printed communication or posted Internet communication would not be regulated if "presents information solely about the voting record or position on a campaign issue of one or more candidates (including any statement by the sponsor of the voting record or voting guide of its agreement or disagreement with the record or position of a candidate), so long as the voting record or voting guide when taken as a whole does not express unmistakable and unambiguous support for or opposition to one or more clearly identified candidates...." In other words, a Web page or brochure giving voting record information about a candidate in a federal election would not be regulated by the government - as long as it didn't appear to favor or oppose anybody "when taken as a whole." So, if a pro-life group distributes voting record information on federal candidates, is there any chance that pure voting record information could escape the jurisdiction of this bill? In the context of the document "taken as a whole," anything from a pro-life group will be construed as supporting pro-life candidates and opposing pro-abortion candidates.

In a society that supposedly cherishes the freedom of speech as a foundational value, it has been stunning to watch the virtual decapitation of the First Amendment occur under our very noses as power-hungry politicians and a powerful media have worked to overthrow the First Amendment, suppressing the right to speak out on political issues in the name of "campaign reform." Arguing that government has become corrupt, they propose a solution that gives government more power. What's wrong with this picture? Freedom of speech can be preserved - but only if it is used to oppose those measure meant to strangle it. Speak out, write your Congressmen, and spread the word: the McCain-Feingold fraud must be defeated.

Jeff Lindsay
May 26, 2001

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Copyright © 2001. This snippet was written by Jeff Lindsay for JeffLindsay.com.


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