Aw…Who Needs That Amendment Anyhow?

| April 29, 2006 | 3 Replies

Oh that John McCain. What a Maverick he is. He’s so mavericky that he’s willing to toss the First Amendment out the window if he can get his idea of “clean government”.

“He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform….I know that money corrupts….I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

The thing is, what McCain knows, as the song goes, ain’t necessarily so. He says that he knows “that money corrupts”, but that’s not the tune he was singing when the law was being passed.

Justice Antonin Scalia noted that point in his dissent in the BCRA case, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. The government’s case rested not on actual examples of money corrupting the system, because they had none, but on “the horrible ‘appearance of corrpution’”. Scalia pointed out that the stated goal appeared not to be ferreting out actual corruption, which could be handled easily under applicable law, but to squelch so-called “attack ads”. He made his point this way, using quotes from a familiar source:

There is good reason to believe that the ending of negative campaign ads was the principal attraction of the legislation. A Senate sponsor said, “I hope that we will not allow our attention to be distracted from the real issues at hand–how to raise the tenor of the debate in our elections and give people real choices. No one benefits from negative ads. They don’t aid our Nation’s political dialog.” Id., at 20521—20522 (remarks of Sen. McCain). He assured the body that “[y]ou cut off the soft money, you are going to see a lot less of that [attack ads]. Prohibit unions and corporations, and you will see a lot less of that. If you demand full disclosure for those who pay for those ads, you are going to see a lot less of that . . . .” 147 Cong. Rec. S3116 (Mar. 29, 2001) (remarks of Sen. McCain).

Justice Thomas also noted in his dissent that “the cited evidence [of corruption] consists of nothing more than vague allegations of wrongdoing”.

John McCain is no fool. But he believes that you are. He knows that if he keeps repeating the “corruption” mantra, enough voters will believe it. But McCain has not shown, and can not show today a instance of corruption that could not be simply and effectively handled by the laws already in place. No. McCain’s egregious law robbed you of a vital portion of your First Amendment rights – the right to engage in political speech – in order to protect he and his fellow incumbents from criticism that he felt was too harsh.

And if he had his way, he’d gut the First Amendment even more, if he could have a a world of “clean government” where he could reign without ever hearing a harsh word from us, the little people that he sees as vassals instead of citizens.

Category: Political Pontifications

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