Thursday, July 07, 2005

All in the Name of Reform

Campaign finance is the one area of politics about which I am almost entirely a cynic. Self-described reformers always had some ulterior motive whether it was trying to atone for past campaign finance sins (John McCain) or to try and refashion the law to thwart the opposing party.

By now, it's obvious that Democrats were planning on the establishment of 527 groups prior to the passage of McCain-Feingold (aka Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act) which severely restricted the ability of individuals and small groups to donate to parties. The Republicans who ended up voting for the bill clearly did so with an eye on the fact that Democrats relied primarily on soft-money, the very thing that was to be banned by BCRA. No doubt, the GOP senators also thought they'd get the naive liberal press of their backs (back in early 2001 the media drumbeat for censorship of everyone but themselves was positively sickening).

All of this was ironic because in the days before the Republican congressional majority, it was Republicans who were gung-ho about "reforming" away their opponents. Democrats, meanwhile were more than happy with the existing system which gave them the financial advantage as the majority party.

Now, it seems Republicans have once again picked up the "reform" cudgel as this longish American Prospect article details (link via Ezra Klein). Democrats thought they'd get the best of Republicans by bashing them with their former issue. No longer. Now it's Democrats who will be getting the legislative shaft in the name of "reform." And there's probably not too much they can do to stop it, unless they team up with the core of conservatives who stood up against the McCain/media juggernaut. In the mean time, all Americans' freedom of political speech, the most important freedom of all, slowly gets whittled away.

What we really need is a return to the pre-Watergate freedom of speech that we once had coupled with rigorous disclosure requirements and a ban on corporate and union campaign contributions. Here's to hoping that Democrats start supporting free speech like they did before and that conservatives within the GOP resist the urge to harm their rivals by taking away freedoms.