Friday, October 28, 2005

The Pernicious Effects of McCain-Feingold

I've long been of the opinion that the press should have been the biggest opponent of restrictive campaign finance laws, in part because they have the most to lose. Once politicians and groups can be restricted in their campaigns, press censorship is the necessary next step.

That is apparently what is going on in Washington state where a county judge ruled yesterday that a radio talk show host's remarks against a Seattle-area gas tax were an "in-kind" contribution to a campaign against it.
Comments made by radio talk-show hosts this past summer supporting anti-gas-tax Initiative 912 should be considered in-kind political contributions, a Thurston County Superior Court judge reaffirmed Wednesday.

Judge Chris Wickham also found that the I-912 campaign had complied with his ruling by reporting the contributions to the state and closed the case.

The ruling was called a blow to free speech by the law firm representing the I-912 campaign, which is seeking to overturn a 9.5-cent-a-gallon increase in the state gas tax. They vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"Campaigns and media figures are going to have this in the back of their heads. 'Am I too close to this, am I talking about this too much? Should I be having lunch with this guy from the campaign?' " said William Maurer, executive director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter, which represents I-912 in the case.

Others, however, say Wickham's ruling was narrowly focused and does not infringe on free-speech rights.

"We did not ever want to be in a situation where anyone felt that their speech was limited," said Michael Vaska, a Seattle attorney who helped bring the case. "We just wanted people to have the right to know who was paying for this campaign."

I don't think the day is too far away when a media outlet will be sued for being biased. It's a shame it will turn out this way because it didn't have to be considering that there hasn't been any public demand for "reform." (Via Michelle Malkin.)