Repeal McCain-Feingold Now

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Awhile back, I blogged about a lawsuit made possible in no small part by the efforts of John McCain to "clean up" political campaigns. And earlier this week, I pointed to an article in which he stated his position on the issue, which is immoral and dangerous to individual rights. His position? "I would rather have a clean government than one where quote 'First Amendment rights' are being respected that has become corrupt."

In case you are curious about what this sense of priorities would mean in your daily life, I direct you to the blog of Becky Clark. Clark is one of a group of individuals I mentioned who opposed the annexation of their neighborhood by a nearby town and thus did what anyone else would do: Express that opposition by the means at their disposal.

Clark, who is scheduled to appear on 20/20 next week, provides a blow-by-blow account of her travails, from when she first learned she was being sued under the "private enforcement provisions" of campaign finance law, to her (partial) legal victory two years and mountains of difficult paperwork later.

Before I go on, let me say that if you think the excerpts I am about to provide are harrowing, read her whole account! This could be you later on today.

First, campaign finance reform empowers exactly the kind of people one would hope to geld in any attempt at genuine government reform: "little dictators".

These people live within a block or two of everyone they sued. I was baffled as to why they couldn't just ring my doorbell, send me an email, pick up the phone, tape a note to my front door -- whatever -- to tell me they think we're not in compliance with the laws. They could even send us a letter. After all, they'd sent letters to the entire neighborhood about the annexation -- why not send one about campaign finance rules?

And then it hit me. They wanted to shut us up. The litigation was clearly an attempt to intimidate us.

We had no choice but to file as an issue committee despite the fact we didn't think we were a committee, nor did we think this qualified as a "ballot issue" since it wasn't on any ballot. [bold added]
Clark's having to file as an issue committee -- which she had to do in addition to facing a lawsuit -- was hardly a picnic, nor even a mere trip to the DMV. It was, according to over two hundred adults who tried it, worse than filing taxes, and guess what it will discourage in the name of providing "clean government"!
A recent study by campaign finance expert Dr. Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Kansas School of Business asked 255 people to fill out the required registration and reporting forms, and not one participant managed to do so correctly. Each person would have been subject to fines and penalties in real life, just like I was. Like me, participants found the required forms "Worse than the IRS!" and said it would make them less likely to get involved in politics." [bold added]
The effect of this law is plainly to make criminals of anyone it doesn't silence outright. In her famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, through the words of villain Floyd Ferris, explains what such laws mean to power-lusters. This is something that Clark's neighbors seem to intuit -- and John McCain (like his opponent) is either too dim-witted to grasp or too dishonest to admit:
"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against -- then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted -- and you create a nation of law-breakers -- and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." (406) [bold added]
How can a government even be "of the people, by the people, for the people" when the very people are hindered from participating in it?

Sadly, our judiciary seems in this case to have not gone far enough in its ruling in favor of the anti-annexation residents of the neighborhood in Colorado (or been able to -- see Note below):
The federal judge said we should not have been sued for our speech opposing the annexation, BUT the ruling did nothing to stop future abuses of campaign finance laws in Colorado or elsewhere. The decision also lets stand the burdensome red tape required under Colorado law for grassroots groups that simply want to speak out about issues on the ballot.

The judge recognized that the two vindictive neighbors who sued us used Colorado's campaign finance laws to intimidate us: "There can be no doubt that they used the private enforcement provisions to attempt to silence the plaintiffs by the filing of the complaint." [bold added]
Regardless of why the private enforcement provision was allowed to stand, two things are clear:

First, campaign finance reform laws must be repealed as the threat to the rights of freedom of speech and property that they are.

Second, if this story grows legs, the very real danger is that those who favor campaign finance reform -- be it out of ignorance, naivete, antipathy to freedom, or whatever other reason -- will be able to look at this fiasco and say something like, "See! Those people in Colorado didn't get into any trouble," and lull the American public back to sleep -- if it ever starts to stir.

(Remember: You could be next.)

I am happy for these good people that they did not get into more trouble than they did, but they have only dodged a bullet. The gun-toting madman is alive and well. He remains on the loose. His gun is still loaded. He is from the government and says he is here to help us.

The only way to begin to stop him is for Americans to demand incessantly for the government to repeal McCain-Feingold as soon as possible. The only proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights. McCain-Feingold makes this objective impossible to attain, and delivers us into the hands of dictators. This law is inherently broken. Do not try to "fix" it. Scrap it. Now.

What good does wiping down the blade of the guillotine do for the average citizen if his head is about to be placed there for the crime of living his life by his own best judgement? A "clean" government is not necessarily a proper government. Let's work on getting the latter.

-- CAV

Note: It would appear that the case hinged on what amounted to a technicality:
The judge said these rules cannot kick in for annexation elections until the issue is put on the ballot. We had been sued and forced to become an issue committee several months before that. The judge held that to turn groups of citizens into "issue committees" before the ballot is set violates our First Amendment rights to free speech and association. [bold added]
The danger posed by campaign finance reform remains. [back]


mtnrunner2 said...

What a nightmare. Clark's neighbors who filed the suit should be ashamed of themselves. Whether the law exists or not is immaterial. It's immoral.

That reminds me of the Boulder, CO couple who sued their neighbors to get some of their property, using an archaic adverse possession law. Locals were in quite an uproar over it. It was similarly disgusting.

I guess I'll have to make sure I never spend $200 or more on politics.

What winners we have to vote for this year. This year is a low ebb in American politics.

Gus Van Horn said...

"Whether the law exists or not is immaterial. It's immoral."

Thanks for highlighting that. You would be surprised at how many people can't keep that distinction straight.

Thanks for the link on the adverse possession case. No comment on it, though, as it is the I've ever heard of the case, and I am not sure that adverse possession law doesn't necessarily fulfill some objective need (e.g., what to do with abandoned property).

mtnrunner2 said...

>to do with abandoned property

That's exactly what it is.

The Colorado law does differ from McCain-Feingold in that the former may have a legitimate use, while the latter doesn't.

However, a similarity is they are both cases of using the letter of the law unjustly. Neither plaintiff should have sued. That, and not being very good neighbors!

The property case was between two current residents of an upscale suburban neighborhood. The defendants had allowed others to walk across a portion of their property for 18 years, which was the number of years required before others could sue for ownership. In exchange for their relaxed attitude about people crossing their land, the property was taken from them by force.

I could see a justification for such a law in cases where there is a lack of clarity such as when the owner is unknown, or the property boundaries are unknown. But a modern subdivision? I should not have to use every acre of my property or post "No Trespassing" signs in order to retain ownership of my land.

The CO law was modified recently, primarily as a result of this case. Not sure what the changes are.

Gus Van Horn said...

"The defendants had allowed others to walk across a portion of their property for 18 years, which was the number of years required before others could sue for ownership. In exchange for their relaxed attitude about people crossing their land, the property was taken from them by force."


I'm no lawyer, but I wonder whether the judge could have thrown that suit out for violating the clear purpose of that law or ruled in some other way to have forestalled or prevented such a result.

But let's say for the sake of argument that such a ruling is impossible. That law was on the books for ages and this never happened! The degree of gall (and the expectation that they'd get away with it says something about the state of the culture.

And so too -- if the judge could have done so -- does the fact that the he let the case go on.

Thanks for the brief summary. That's an eye-opener.