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   Ignore Misrepresentations of the Campaign Finance Reform Bill

Speaking Out:

Ignore Misrepresentations of the Campaign Finance Reform Bill

by Doris "Granny D" Haddock
It's time for serious journalists to stop casually passing along lies and really reading and explaining the McCain-Feingold law, which has passed muster with all the nation's noted constitutional scholars.

Now that the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Bill has been passed by both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, is still being misrepresented in serious ways by opponents of campaign reform.

The most important misrepresentation is this: that the bill will limit the free speech rights of issue organizations like the NRA or the Sierra Club. That is not true.

Let's imagine that the National Rifle Association wants to oppose the reelection of, say, John McCain. Under existing law dating back to Teddy Roosevelt's reforms of 1907, they cannot use their own corporate treasury money to run ads against McCain--only individuals can make campaign donations. The NRA can easily circumvent the law by running ads that do not use the magic words "vote for" or "vote against," instead using thinly-veiled alternatives, such as "ask John McCain why he wants to take away your right to..." It's called an issue advocacy ad. When an ad slamming a candidate is run right before an election, is it an election ad? You bet it is.

If it is an election ad, should we voters know who's behind it? Indeed we should, for free speech does not mean anonymous speech. Under the McCain-Feingold law, the NRA could still use their own money to send a letter to all their members. It could say, "We have some candidates we want to support or oppose in the upcoming election. Please make a contribution to our political action committee." With those donations, the NRA political action committee could run ads for or against any candidates of its choosing. No corporate money would be involved in the ads--only the personal funds of the people contributing to the political action committee. Those names would be a matter of public record as campaign contributors. Everything would be in the open.

Where is the loss of free speech rights? The only thing lost is the ability of special interest organizations to operate from behind a cloak of secrecy.

It's time for thoughtful people to stop listening to the gross representations made by the anti-reformers, left and right, and get on with the business of cleaning up our elections. It's time for serious journalists to stop casually passing along lies and really reading and explaining the McCain bill, which has passed muster with all the nation's noted constitutional scholars. Far from damaging our free speech rights, the bill helps to return free speech rights to regular citizens. We the people have had our voices drowned out by special interest money, and the McCain-Feingold law will help us again be heard.


At the age of 90, Doris "Granny D" Haddock, of Dublin, NH, walked 3,200 miles from California to Washington DC in 1999-2000 to develop popular support for campaign finance reform. See her website.


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This story was published on April 4, 2002.
  
APRIL 2002
LOCAL NEWS
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ART & ENTERTAINMENT
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SPEAKING OUT
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NEWS MEDIA CRITIQUE
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NATION & WORLD
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CITIZENS REFERENCE: BLUE CROSS PRIVATIZATION ISSUES
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FROM OTHER SITES
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