Ryan Sager in the NYSun about the fifth birthday of the McCain-Feingold speech rationing law:
…the folks who brought us the bill known colloquially as McCain-Feingold will be taking a wildly undeserved victory lap this week. After all the big promises leading up to the passage of McCain-Feingold, one is tempted to resort to the phrase “moving the goal posts.” But, in truth, the more apt simile would be that the reformers’ arguments are like bumper bowling: So long as they roll the ball in the right direction and manage not to hit anyone in the face, they get to feel good about themselves.
Take as a prime example of the reformers’ boasting a statement put out yesterday by the Reform Institute, a non-profit group affiliated with Senator McCain of Arizona. The statement claims that BCRA has “succeeded in its objectives.” How so? It “significantly reduced the corrupting influence of campaign contributions and enhanced the participation of small donors in the process.”
This, Sager notes, is patent rubbish for a couple of reasons:
As to the first part, that corruption has been reduced, this is a simple assertion, with not a single piece of evidence to back it up. There’s a reason for that: There is no evidence. By what metric does one measure “corruption”? Mr. McCain and his crew couldn’t define it before they passed McCain-Feingold; they can’t define it now; and, thus, there’s no way to measure it.
Indeed. The only thing McCain-Feingold was ever designed to deal with was a generalized, nonspecific distaste for “money in politics”. McCain-Feingold merely shuffled who got the money and how.
As for the enhanced participation of small donors in the political process, here’s a question: If Messrs. McCain and Feingold took credit for water running downhill, would that mean they could slap it on their resumes? Small donors are participating more in politics because politicians are learning how to harness the Internet. So, unless Mr. McCain invented the Internet — and not Al Gore as we all learned in our civics textbooks — no one ought to be attributing this development to BCRA.
Worst of all, McCain-Feingold added a level of bureaucracy to free political speech that anyone who cares about civil liberty (I’m looking at all of you Democrats who became instant “libertarians” the moment John Ashcroft was sworn into office!) should find nauseating.
The former senator from Tennessee, Fred Thompson, who championed McCain-Feingold, promised that it would “help challengers reach a threshold of credibility when they want to challenge us in these races.” Putting aside the ludicrous notion that 535 incumbent politicians sat down and tried to write a piece of legislation that would make it harder to get reelected, five years later there’s no evidence electoral competition has increased. Sure, control of Congress turned over. But anyone who attributes the 2006 election to McCain-Feingold, as opposed to Bush-Cheney-Hastert-Frist, is delusional.
Strike one to Thompson, who had better back the hell away from his support for McCain-Feingold if he wants my support for President.