The “Cross Country” column by Collin Levy in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal features the latest example of so-called reformers attempting to suppress and control speech — this time in post-Rod Blagojevich Illinois.
The Illinois Reform Commission, created by new Gov. Pat Quinn, recently recommended a host of campaign finance restrictions in order to clean up the state’s reputation of corrupt government. Among the suggestions: banning contributions from lobbyists, contribution limits, a pilot program for public financing of judicial elections, and — the kicker — a personal recommendation from Quinn to erase the campaign chests of candidates for the 2010 cycle (coincidentally, this “reform” would wipe out the $3.5 million in the coffers of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is expected to challenge the governor in next year’s Democratic primary. Mr. Quinn would give up just $83,512).
The WSJ features CCP’s research and recent testimony before the Commission by CCP Chairman Brad Smith to detail how campaign finance “reform” is more often about incumbents using the law to suppress criticism and damage potential challengers by unconstitutionally “leveling the playing field” rather than a meaningful effort to promote good government:
For campaign finance reformers, the problem is always “too much” money. But as Illinois shows, the problem isn’t the money, it’s the politicians. Three other states — Utah, Oregon and Virginia — have no contribution limits. Yet they haven’t a shadow of the political scandals Illinois has spawned. According to research by the Center for Competitive Politics, the three states that the Justice Department ranks as having the lowest rates of public corruption — Iowa, Oregon and Nebraska — do not have stringent campaign finance restrictions.
In 2007, the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice issued a report calling Illinois’s relatively unregulated campaign system “broken and badly in need of reform.” But it also called Minnesota, which has contribution limits and public financing, “broken and badly in need of reform.” Ditto Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. As former Federal Election Commission chairman Brad Smith points out, “broken and badly in need of reform” turns out to be the universal condition of campaign systems, which reformers never run out of new proposals to fix.