ELECTION CAMPAIGN FINANCE REGULATION:
PRESIDENT BUSH AT THE CROSSROADS
By Colonel Dan
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech."
Article VI of the Constitution of the United States of America.
"The Senators and Representatives ... and all executive and judicial officers ... shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution."
Governor George W. Bush on THIS WEEK with George Will, January 23, 2000
George Will: With regard regard to campaign finance, your opponent Senator McCain has made much of his pledge to ban soft money. You say that would be bad for the Republican Party. I want to see if you agree with those who say it would be bad for the First Amendment.
I know you're not a lawyer--you say that with some pride--but do you think a president--and we've had a lot of non-lawyer presidents--has a duty to make an independent judgement of what is and is not constitutional, and veto bills that, in his judgement, are unconstitutional?
Governor Bush: I do.
Will: In which case, would you veto the McCain Feingold Bill or the Shays-Meehan Bill?
Governor Bush: That's an interesting question. I - I - yes I would. And the reason why is twofold. For one, I think it does restrict free speech for individuals. As I understand how the bill was written--I think there's been two versions of it--the first version restricted insividuals and/or groups from being able to express their opinions.
I've always said that I think corporate soft money and labor union soft money--which I don't believe is individual free speech, this is collective free speech--ought to be banned. As regards labor union contributions to election campaigns, I believe that the individual working man or woman--the individual union member--should be able to make the decision as to whether the union will spend his or her dues money on a political campaign, a political idea, or a political crusade.
That's one concern of mine. As for the other concern, I think we ought to make it easier for individuals to participate in the political process. This needs to be a process of individuals.
Bush Takes the Presidential Oath of Office, January 20, 2001
"I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Members of Congress Take the Congressional Oath of Office, January, 2001
"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."
President Bush Outlines His Campaign Finance Reform Principles, March 15, 2001
The Honorable Trent Lott
Senate Majority Leader
S-230, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Lott:
As the Senate prepares to consider campaign finance reform legislation, I wanted to highlight my principles for reform. I am committed to working with the Congress to ensure that fair and balanced campaign finance reform legislation is enacted.
These principles represent my framework for assessing campaign finance reform legislation. I remain open to other ideas to meet shared goals.
I am hopeful that, working together, we can achieve responsible campaign finance reforms.
George W. Bush
President Bush believes democracy is first and foremost about the rights of individuals to express their views. He supports strengthening the role of indiciduals in the political process by (1) updating the limits established more than two decades ago on individual giving to candidates and national parties and (2) protecting the rights of citizen groups to engage in issue advocacy.
Maintain Strong Political Parties:
President Bush believes political parties play an essential role in making America's democratic system operate. He wants to maintain the strength of parties, and not to weaken them. Any reform should help political parties more fully engage citizens in the political process and encourage them to express their views and to vote.
Ban Corporate and Union Soft Money:
Corporations and labor unions spend millions of dollars every election cycle in unregulated "soft" money to influence federal elections. President Bush supports a ban on unregulated corporate and union contributions of soft money to political parties.
Eliminate Involuntary Contributions:
President Bush believes no one should be forced to support a candidate or cause against his or her will. He therefore supports two parallel reforms: (1) legislation to prohibit corporations from using treasury funds for political activity without the permission of shareholders; and (2) legislation to require unions to obtain authorization from each dues-paying worker before spending those dues on activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
Require Full and Prompt Disclosure:
President Bush also believes that, in an open society, the best safeguard against abuse is full disclosure. He supports full, prompt, and constitutionally permissible disclosure of contributions and expenditures designed to influence the outcome of federal elections, so voters will have complete and timely information on which to make informed decisions.
Promote a Fair, Balanced, and Constitutional Approach to Campaign Finance Reform:
President Bush believes campaign finance reform should not favor any one party over another or incumbents over challengers. Both corporations and labor unions should be prohibited from giving soft money to political parties, and both corporations and unions should have to obtain permission from their stockholders or dues-paying workers before spending treasury funds or union dues on politics. President Bush supports including a non-severability provision, so if any provision of the bill is found unconstitutional, the entire bill is sent back to Congress for further adjustments and deliberations. This provision will ensure fair and balanced campaign finance reform.
[Colonel's Note: Current CFR does not satisfy Bush's six principles.]
Recognized Unconstitutional Provision of CFR
"The ability of unions, corporations, and nonprofits to fund broadcast 'issue ads' would be restricted if the ads referred to a federal candidate and ran within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary."
[Colonel's Note: This provision would prohibit, for example, gun rights organizations from running political ads in support of pro-gun candidates.]
Proposed Amendment to the Campaign Finance Reform Bill (H.R. 2356)
Introduced by House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the proposed amendment to H.R. 2356 stated that nothing in the bill could violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The proposed amendment to the bill was rejected, 237-188.
[Colonel's Note: By rejecting this amendment, Congress is actually telling us their CFR is superior to the Constitution.]
Although in March of 2000 President Bush clearly stated that he would veto such a measure, he is smart to avoid making any comment on the bill now because it's not yet finished. He should deal with what actually reaches his desk. Technically, this bill could die in committee and he would never see it.
If it is presented for presidential signature in its current form, however, Congress will have placed Bush in a political conundrum. If he vetoes it, congressional Liberals will spin it as Bush being anti-reform. If he signs it, Congress has their incumbent protection law and Bush will be placed in a box with his Conservative base support.
Even if Bush and the GOP spin the signing of this bill as a way of forcing the U.S. Supreme Court to make the final decision, that won't change the fact that our President abrogated his leadership responsibility and sold out. The President has a sworn duty to make independent judgements in upholding the Constitution. He doesn't have to nor should he pass off something this blatantly unconstitutional to the Supreme Court.
Congressional Liberals may see this as a win-win situation for them, but I don't.
In my view, Bush, as the sworn leader of our country, has no option. He must veto the bill, or he violates his oath of office and sacred duty to uphold the Constitution.
Will he pass this gut check or buckle under to political pressure and trade his sacred duty for political expediency? How might he handle this? He has three alternatives if the bill reaches his desk:
What Bush does, if this bill ever reaches his desk, will tell America a lot about the man who occupies the White House, despite the spin that is sure to follow.
I predict that, if he has the courage to veto CFR and pointedly explains to America why, his approval ratings will skyrocket, while those of Congress will plummet. If he signs it, both the legislative and executive branches of our national government will have more arrogantly and blatantly trashed the U.S. Constitution than at any time in recent memory.
Make no mistake about it. America is approaching that critical crossroad along with President Bush--a crossroad that could adversely impact us for many years and in many ways, and make it even easier for government to abuse power and threaten our freedom.
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