Sunday, December 08, 2002

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, except 30 days before a primary election or 60 days before a general election

The much-awaited legal battle between free speech and campaign finance regulation has finally begun in earnest with oral arguments before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over the McCain-Feingold "Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act." Unfortunately for PR purposes but fortunately for the plaintiffs' prospects, former special counsel Ken Starr will be leading the case against the spending and contribution restrictions. Focusing in on one of the reasons for the much-vaunted bipartisan nature of the bill’s passage, Starr said "When you look at the legislative record, what you see is ... the incumbent members of Congress, who supported this legislation, said, ‘we don't like ads. We want control over our campaigns. We don't like people using our names in ads.’ It's really quite staggering. In a free society, if you have a view with respect to a particular law, you can't name a member of Congress or a candidate for Congress?" All the members who voted for McCain-Feingold were by definition incumbents, most of them planning to run for reelection. What could have more bipartisan appeal than hobbling potential challengers while preserving, indeed strengthening, the advantages of incumbency?


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