This socalled "reform" legislation is clearly unconstitutional. Many have pointed out that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution unquestionably grants individuals and businesses the free and unfettered right to advertise, lobby, and contribute money to politicians as they choose. Campaign finance legislation blows a huge hole in these First Amendment protections by criminalizing criticism of elected officials. Thus, passage of this bill will import into American law the totalitarian concept that government officials should be able to use their power to silence their critics.
The case against this legislation was best stated by Herb Titus, one of America's leading constitutional scholars in his paper, Campaign Finance Reform--A Constitutional Analysis: "At the heart of the guarantee of the freedom of speech is the prohibition against any law designed to protect the reputation of the government to the end that the people have confidence in their current governors. As seditious libel laws protecting the reputation of the government unconstitutionally abridge the freedom of speech, so also do campaign-finance reform laws."
The damage this bill does to the First Amendment is certainly a sufficient reason to oppose it. However, as Professor Titus demonstrates in his analysis of the bill, the most important reason to oppose this bill is that the U.S. Constitution does not grant Congress the power to regulate election campaigns. In fact, Article II of the Constitution expressly authorizes congressionmal regulation of the conduct of federal elections, but not election campaigns. The Constitution's omission of election campaigns from the congressional regulatory authority is glaring.
Campaign finance legislation represents an attempt by Congress to fix a problem created by excessive government intervention into the economy with an infringement on the people's constitutional liberties. The real problem is not that government lacks power to control campaign financing, but that the federal government has excessive power over our economy and lives.
It is the power of the Statist Liberal welfare-regulatory state which creates a tremendous incentive to protect one's own interests by "investing" in politicians holding government office and those seeking election to government office. Since the problem is not a lack of federal laws or rules regulating campaign spending, more laws won't help. We hardly suffer from too much freedom. Any effort to solve the campaign finance problem with more laws will only make things worse by further undermining the principles of liberty and private property ownership.
Attempts to address the problems of special interest influence through new unconstitutional rules and regulations address only the symptions, while ignoring the root cause of the problem. Tough enforcement of campaign spending rules will merely drive the influence underground, since the stakes are too high and much is to be gained by exerting influence on government, whether legally or illegally. The more open and legal campaign expenditures are, the easier it is for voters to know who's buying influence from whom.
There is a tremendous incentive for every special interest group to influence government. Every individual, bank, or corporation that does business with government invests plenty in influencing government. Lobbyists spend over a hundred million dollars per month trying to influence Congress. Taxpayer dollars are endlessly spent by government bureaucrats in their effort to convince Congress to protect their own empires. Government has tremendous influence over the economy and financial markets through interest rate controls, contracts, regulations, loans, and grants. Corporations and others are "forced" to participate in the process out of greed as well as self-defense, since that's the way the system works. Equalizing competition and balancing power, such as between labor and business, is a common practice. As long as the system remains in place, the incentive to buy influence will continue.
Many reformers recognize this, and either like the system or believe that it's futile to bring about changes. They argue that curtailing influence buying is the only option left, even if it involves compromising freedom of political speech by regulating political money.
It's naive to believe stricter rules will make a difference. If members of Congress resisted the temptation to support unconstitutional legislation to benefit special interests, this whole discussion would be unnecessary. Because mrmbers of Congress do yield to the pressure, the reformers believe that more rules regulating political speech will solve the problem.
The reformers argue that it's only the fault of those trying to influence government and not the fault of the members of Congress who yield to the pressure. Alternatively, the reformers maintain that it's the system that generates the abuse. Taking these positions allows members of Congress to avoid assuming responsibility for their own acts, and instead, place the blame on those who exert pressure on Congress through the political process, which is a basic right bestowed by the Constitution on all Americans. The reformers argument is "Stop us before we succumb to the special interest groups."
Politicians unable or unwilling to accept their due responsibility as govertnment officeholders clamor for a system that diminishes the need for them to persuade individuals and groups to donate money to their campaigns. Instead of persuasion, they endorse coercing taxpayers to finance campaigns.
This only changes the special interest groups that control government policy. Instead of voluntary groups making their own decisions with their own money, politicians and bureaucrats dictate how political campaigns will be financed. Not only will politicians and bureaucrats gain influence over elections, but also other nondeserving prople will benefit. Clearly, incumbents will greatly benefit by more controls over campaign spending--a benefit to which the reformers will never admit,
The freedoms of the American people should not be restricted because some politicians cannot control themselves. We need to get money out of government. Only then will money not be important in politics. Campaign finance laws, such as the one proposed, will not make politicians more ethical, but they will make it harder for average Americans to influence Washington.
The case against the proposed legislation was eloquently made by Herb Titus in the paper referenced above. According to Titus, "Campaign-finance reform is truly a wolf in sheep's clothing. Promising reform, it hides incumbent perquisites. Promising competition, it favors monopoly. Promising integrity, it fosters corruption. Real campaign-finance reform calls for a return to America's original constitutional principles of limited and decentralized governmental power, thereby preserving the power of the people."
I urge my colleagues to listen to Professor Titus and reject this unconstitutional proposal. Instead of passing campaign finance legislation, I hope my colleagues will work to reduce special interest influence in Washington and restore integrity to politics by reducing the federal government to its constitutional limits.
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Ron Paul is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the Fourteenth Congressional District of Texas.
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