Sunday, May 13, 2007

Some people's First Amendment rights are more equal than others

This story is generically unexceptional, MoveOn and the Soros crowd have been funding such ads for a long time. What I do find interesting is that it is a consequence of Campaign Finance Reform. The money has found another outlet, arguably more egregious than before CFR, exactly the opposite of the advertised intent. I.e., government as usual.

Democratic-Linked Groups Mount Ad Offensive


WASHINGTON - 501(c)(4) - it's the most potent little algorithm in politics right now.

A 501(c)(4) is the Internal Revenue Service term for a tax-exempt organization "primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community."

However one might define "the common good," the IRS allows such groups to take part in campaigns opposing or supporting candidates, as long as such electioneering is not the group's primary activity.

IRS guidelines suggest that as long as the group does not target voters in a candidate's state or district with ads shortly before an election, and as long as it has been running a series of "issue ads" outside of election season, then its tax status is safe.

One alluring feature of using these tax-exempt groups is that - unlike campaign committees - the donations to a 501(c)(4) are anonymous and unlimited in amount.

A single donor could, under cover of the 501(c)(4)'s anonymity, give $20 million or $200 million to pay for political ads.
The solution which will be proposed is more restriction on free speech, not less. Once the government starts meddling with the Constitution it is necessary to keep doing so. What should happen, but won't, is a complete repeal of CFR coupled with a requirement for immediate public disclosure of all donations.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

A small quibble.

I'd like to see complete repeal of all campaign finance laws, period - excepting your proposed full disclosure law.

Hershblogger said...

I think we are in agreement, so I'm not getting the quibble.

If it is that not just McCain-Feingold should be repealed, but any restriction on political speech, I apologize for any narrow construction.

Any restrictions whatsoever on political speech should be repealed.

Anonymous said...

This avoidance by Democrats to call themselves Democrats has gone too far. It is "Democrat-Linked", not "Democratic-Linked". One cannot be linked to an adjective.

They are Democrats, damnit.

Hershblogger said...

Interesting you should make the distinction.

I had an OpEd published yesterday in the Lansing State Journal in the original of which I used the word "Democrat," the name of the Party. The LSJ changed it to "Democratic."

Telling. The paper of adjectival linkage.

just6dollars said...

Perhaps a better attempt at reform would be to limit expenditures that flow through existing loopholes, and instead strengthen public funding of elections.

Hershblogger said...

I'm afraid I can't see government funding working any better for campaign finance than it does for Social Security, Medicare or education.

Less government intervention, please, not more.

If the existing loopholes have to be regulated, new loopholes will be found. Those will be closed by indignant incumbents (who will also be appointing the bureaucrats controlling public funding) in a cycle that will eventually totally gut the First Amendment vis-vis political speech.

We continue to see such behavior now. The recent initiative is the attempt to revive the "Fairness" Doctrine. http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NTIxOTBjZGRmYWVlMjczOTQxYmY5MDE4MmRlNjAxYjY=

There is the ongoing debate about limiting speech on the Internet.

Finally, I would offer the Democrats "reform" proposals as an example of how the legislatures would "control" loopholes and arrange for the administration of public campaign finance.
http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=2439