America can no longer solve many of its problems because the nation
has lost its moral bearings and, thus, its standards by which to measure
A perfect example of this dilemma is the issue of campaign financing.
U.S. elections are so rigged, so corrupt and so devoid of real choice,
any more, that it is, without question, difficult to figure out how to
reform the system. Any one who tells you he has simple solutions to
America’s political crisis probably has found a way to make it worse.
Such is the case with the so-called campaign finance “reformers.”
Over the years, especially since the 1970s, government at the state
and federal level has imposed restrictions on how we are permitted to
support political candidates and causes. Too much money is being spent
on politics, we’re told by politicians. We’ve got to bring this system
under control. Another way they have tried to do that is through
taxpayer-subsidized campaigns in the form of federal matching funds.
One thing you can usually count on is that when the government sticks
its nose into a problem, the problem is going to get worse. Campaign
financing is no exception to the rule.
Republicrats and Democans argue with one another about campaign
financing “reform” based on their ideas of how changes will affect the
ability of their own parties to raise money. The Democans, generally,
like strict limits on individual contributions, the elimination of
soft-money political action committees and the preservation of taxpayer
subsidies and unlimited contributions by labor unions using funds taken
from their memberships through coercion. Republicrats, on the other
hand, don’t have any philosophical problem with the government imposing
all kinds of limits and restrictions on political speech, but they don’t
like the idea of labor unions getting away with murder.
This is essentially what all the fuss is about on the Hill right now.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to ban
soft money. The Senate is now considering that bill with some possible
What’s wrong with this picture?
The debate shifts back and forth based on perceived political
advantage with little thought given to constitutional principle.
When the framers of our great republic crafted the First Amendment to
protect our inalienable right to free speech and freedom of the press,
it wasn’t with the idea of helping Larry Flynt make a fortune peddling
obscene images and other filth. What they had in mind was precisely the
kind of political speech that is being abridged by Congress with passage
of additional laws on campaign financing.
It’s not up to Congress to decide that too much money is being spent
on election campaigns. Frankly, very little money, relatively speaking,
is being spent on politics in this country. More money, in fact, is
spent year in and year out on advertising potato chips than is spent on
election ads. If it would be unthinkable for Congress to decide that
Frito-Lay is spending too much on potato chip commercials (and I, for
one, think it would be outrageous), it is certainly more unthinkable –
or should be — for Congress to restrict in any way, shape or form money
spent on political speech.
Think about it. You’re an American. Your government is telling you
that you are limited to spending $1,000 on your favorite candidate.
Whether you make $25,000 a year or $250,000, you are limited to
contributing $1,000 to a candidate. Now, if you happen to be an
Indonesian national with billions of dollars and close ties to the
Chinese military and espionage establishment, there are no such limits
placed on your ability to contribute. In fact, the largest single
contributor to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign was just such a
man — Mochtar Riady, and his son, James. Oh, it may be illegal, but no
one is going to be held accountable for the crime — not even the
president of the United States. And not even after Clinton has sent U.S.
troops to East Timor to help prop up Riady’s Indonesia.
See what I mean? The real issues aren’t even being discussed. But are
they more likely to be debated if the political establishment gets its
way and more controls, restrictions and limits are placed on Americans
and their ability to express themselves?
It’s time to scrap all the election finance laws and, once again,
allow Americans to express themselves politically the way our Founding