Politics and the Pulpit

All too frequently, regulation is a scale that balances the arbitrary against the vague.  Decreasing one tips the scale towards the other.  According to campaign finance law, for example, a contribution of $2,100 is wholesome but a contribution of $2,101 is corrupting.  No one really believes this, but arbitrariness is the price we pay for clarity.

Just as often, the scales of regulation are tipped in the other direction.  Regulators will draw a line that attempts to be principled rather than arbitrary.  The result is usually a regulation that is unworkably vague.  One example is the line drawn by the tax code between politics and religion.

Click on the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

The License in Licensing

Mr Carlson: I had one of my disc jockeys, Dr Johnny Fever, give me the lyrics to a song. He wants to know if you’d let him play that song on the air.
Dr Bob, reading: “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine no possessions[?] Imagine all the people sharing all the world[?]” That sounds like communism to me: if there’s no heaven, and no religion, then, I assume, no God.
Mr Carlson: There’s not an obscene word in here.
Dr Bob: Not the way I see it.
Mr Carlson: Does it go on your list?
Dr Bob: Arthur, this is typical of the kind of secular, liberal humanist point of view that gluts our airwaves.
Mr Carlson: Yeah, but we’re not talking obscenities here anymore, Bob, we’re talking about ideas — political, philosophical ideas. First you censor a word, and then you censor the idea.
Dr Bob: The idea is man-centered. [A]rthur, this song says there’s no heaven.
Mr Carlson: Ah. No, it says just imagine there’s no heaven.
Dr Bob: That’s blasphemy.
Mr Carlson: On the list or not?
Dr Bob: I have no choice but to say on.
Mr Carlson: That decision was made by one man.

— WKRP In Cincinnati, “Clean Up Radio Everywhere”

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Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Florida, Washington

Yes, senator, McCain-Feingold does censor political speech

CCP Chairman Brad Smith answers Sen. Feingold’s assertion that speech is not censored under McCain-Feingold.  Says Smith in today’s Examiner:

Feingold’s position is disingenuous. For just a few sentences after telling us the law “doesn’t ban or censor any speech,” he tells us that McCain-Feingold was necessary to prevent some voices from being “drowned out” by others. As McCain-Feingold does nothing to affirmatively create or encourage speech — it offers no subsidies or platform for political speech — the only way it can prevent anyone’s voice from being “drowned out” is through the suppression of other speech — and that is indeed what McCain-Feingold does, as the senator must know.

Read the entire article from the Examiner


Filed Under: Blog

Can America Survive Half Censored/Half Free? Thoughts on “The Path to 9/11”

CCP Chairman Bradley Smith offers some provocative thoughts on efforts to censor the ABC docudrama, "The Path to 9/11," and notes that demands to censor political speech – which are moving ever closer to the institutional press – are unleashed and supported by campaign finance "reform."

Filed Under: Blog

McCain-Feingold Electioneering Brownout Kicks in Today

The "electioneering communications" provisions of the McCain-Feingold law kick into place today.  This means no union or corporate money may be used to finance any broadcast ad reaching 50,000 people that even mentions a candidate for federal office, nor may an incorporated entity – even non-profit citizens’ groups such as the National Rifle Association, Handgun Control, Inc., Planned Parenthood, Right to Life, or the NAACP run any ads that mention a federal candidate. 

In exchange for surrendering our First Amendment rights, what have we gained?  Do you feel Congress is more ethical than before?  Less attuned to special interests?  Do you feel more empowered, or less empowered, than you did four years ago, when the law passed? 

 Click the headline for the entire post.


Filed Under: Blog

Campaign Finance “Reform” and Voter Suppression

Is campaign finance reform unconstitutional vote suppression? Maybe.  Click the headline to read more.

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Ohio

A Wisconsin ruling raises questions about campaign finance “reform.”

A decision by the Wisconsin State Election Board disrupts the Wisconsin governor’s race.  The decision illustrates a too-little discussed part of the price we pay for campaign finance reform.  Click on the headline to read the story.

Filed Under: Blog, Wisconsin

Political Pull at the FEC

On Monday the FEC rejected a proposal to pass an interim rule allowing for grassroots issue ads to air during campaign season.  The proposal failed on a 3-3 vote, all three Republican Commissioners voting in favor, and the three Democrats opposed.  It then rejected a proposal to open rule making to write a permanent rule, on an identical vote.  It then rejected a proposal to ask the staff to draft proposals for a notice of proposed rule making; again it was rejected on a 3-3 vote.

There are some interesting politics to this: click the headline for more. 

Filed Under: Blog

The Millionaires’ Amendment: Making Elections More Fair?

The FEC has concluded in an advisory opinion that personal spending in the Washington State Republican primary by U.S. Senate Candidate Michael McGavick does not trigger the “Millionaire’s Amendment” for Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell. 

As a matter of law, the FEC’s ruling is correct.  As a matter of policy, it illustrates the problems with trying to regulate campaign finance in the name of “fairness.”

 Read on by clicking the headline. 

Filed Under: Blog, Washington

Reporter Alert: The New York Times and a “Grassroots” Lobbying Exception

The Federal Election Commission is poised this week to consider crafting a regulation providing a limited grassroots lobbying exception to McCain-Feingold’s 60 day pre-election limitations on broadcast advertising that mentions a candidate.  The New York Times has an editorial on it, but it’s not one from which a person could actually learn anything.  In fact, like so many Times editorials, it helps to explain why the more people read newspapers, the less they know about campaign finance laws.  Click on the title link for a little more factual understanding of the issue behind this latest Times temper tantrum.

Filed Under: Blog