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News - Do we need McCain-Feingold-style campaign finance reform?

No. Do we really want to help incumbents when 98 percent of House members standing for reelection are successful?

Would the rest of you please shut up?

That's the message of America's congressional incumbents and media bosses, the two elite groups behind McCain-Feingold.

Approved by the Senate and headed for House consideration, the bill is a brazen, broad-daylight attack on free political expression. It would outlaw currently unrestricted "soft money" gifts to parties and, even more ominously, would ban TV ads by independent advocacy groups for 60 days prior to an election.

McCain-Feingold would trample the First Amendment, quiet the voices of dissenting Americans and pump up the volume for those who least need it — incumbent politicians and media barons.

Bill supporters say the system is awash in money. But Americans spent less on last year's Bush-Gore race ($321 million) than they did on tickets to Forrest Gump ($330 million). Is that really too much?

Proponents claim they're doing the people's bidding. But even at the height of John McCain's presidential run, no more than 2 percent of Americans ever told pollsters McCain's pet cause was one of their top two priorities.

Supporters say McCain-Feingold would clean up politics, but reams of law didn't keep Bill Clinton from selling the Lincoln Bedroom or taking money from communist China.

No, what advocates really want to do is enhance their own power.

Eliminating soft money donations to parties would help congressional incumbents maintain the lopsided 4-to-1 fundraising advantage they now enjoy over challengers.

Banning issue ads by independent groups during election season would be a boon to both incumbents and the media. Clearly unconstitutional, this provision would muzzle groups from the ACLU to the NRA, the NAACP to the Christian Coalition.

Conscientious citizens of all political persuasions should be deeply troubled when the governing class takes steps to silence critics when such dissent matters most — in the home stretch of election campaigns.

Even in pragmatic terms, McCain-Feingold is bad news. Do we really want to help incumbents when 98 percent of House members standing for reelection are successful?

A better approach to reform would repeal existing restrictions on political giving while providing full public disclosure of sources. That would let voters decide if a politician is being unduly influenced.

Back in the real world, it's frightening to see the mob itching to gut the Constitution for political gain.

Opponents can take solace, however, in McCain-Feingold's flaws: If approved, the Supreme Court would toss it out in a heartbeat.??





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