He Who Smelt it Dealt It?

Monday, March 21, 2005

The headline of an article I learned about through RealClear Politics -- "The Stench from Pew" -- brought this bit of childhood wisdom to mind. (Ah! The benefits a religious upbringing confers upon a young lad! *) Unfortunately, the level of analysis is about as profound as the -- ahem -- aphorism. And in failing to focus on the big picture, the article is helping a big villain get away with a major crime.

The article discusses the sordid collusion between Pew Charitable Trusts and several other left-wing charities to convince Congress that public sentiment favored campaign finance reform when this was not necessarily the case. Unsurprisingly, one of these charities is George Soros's Open Society Institute, which "colluded with Pew to give $123 million between 1994 and 2004 to promote the regulation of political speech."

While the article calls for the heads of several key politicians involved in the farce of campaign finance "reform", it does so for the wrong reasons. The article also calls for an investigation into the charities involved, starting with Pew.

We'd be loathe to accept Treglia's word that Pew stayed even within the letter of the law here — foundations, after all, have tax-exempt status and are forbidden by law to lobby Congress. But Pew's violation of the spirit of the law alone is reason enough for the IRS, or even Congress, to look into this matter.

So we want Congress -- you know, the body that passed campaign finance reform in the first place -- to investigate this? I never thought I'd say this, but it sounds like the IRS might be a better choice.

What the article omits entirely is what we should be the most scandalized about: That Congress was unprincipled enough to regulate free speech in the first place, and, to top that off, either spineless enough or opportunistic enough to bow to "public" demands for the same. In making this omission, the article misses the supreme irony of having Congress investigate the offending charities: The charities will be the fall guys in any influence peddling scandal and -- far worse -- the influence peddling scandal will distract the public from the fact that they have been muzzled by McCain-Feingold!

But does the public even care? Who so much as batted an eye when McCain-Feingold passed? Many counted on the Supremes to bail us out, but they did not.

The court has given government an extensive role in the area on grounds that there is a fundamental national interest in rooting out corruption or even the appearance of it. That concern justifies limitations on the freedom of speech, the court has said.

The fact that the political career of anyone who voted for McCain-Feingold survived a subsequent election is our fault as voters. The saying, "A republic, if you can keep it" comes to mind. So we've accepted restrictions on both private property and political speech, and rather than fix these huge problems, we're going to niggle over some of the finer points of tax law. Congress comes out smelling like roses for investigating the charities. In the meantime, that rosy smell is concealing the real stench: That political speech is being regulated at all. Amazing.

But what the hey! Let's look at the silver lining behind these black, gathering clouds anyway. If the hue and cry becomes loud enough about this, these liberal jackasses are going to find out where a sweetheart deal with Congress will get you when push comes to shove. And a pack of Democrats being investigated by the IRS is about the only kind of justice we're going to see here (unless we call for the real thing): the poetic variety.

The best way to influence Congress remains for a vigilant body politic to fire buffoons like McCain and Feingold at the ballot box. And it's perfectly legal, too. Time to wake up! But quickly! This particular method of influence depends upon freedom of speech, and shouts of "Wake up!" like this one are perilously close to being silenced. (Hat tip to Sarah Beth.)

Forget Pew et al. It's a distraction. The real scandal here is abridgment of freedom of speech. We the people need to keep our eyes on the prize.

-- CAV

* There I go again, being absent-minded! I was actually thinking of a different gross saying from my childhood when I came up with my title! Well, I wouldn't have used the other one for a title anyway....


3-21-05: Added footnote.

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