- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Not since the 1798 passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts has the First Amendment been so directly assaulted. McCain-Feingold, as passed Monday in the Senate, is an anti-speech, pro-incumbent bill that threatens the interests of conservatives across the country.

Instead of allowing political opponents to be thrown in jail, as did its first cousin the Alien and Sedition Acts, McCain-Feingold merely muzzles them. It prohibits unions, corporations and independent advocacy groups, ranging from the Sierra Club to the National Right to Life, from running issue ads in the two months leading up to general elections and one month leading up to primary elections.

One of the most grievous sections of McCain-Feingold concerns "coordination." Under current law, coordination only exists when there is specific collaboration between a candidate and a group about an electioneering activity. Yet in McCain-Feingold, coordination is given a far broader meaning. "A group could be subject to debilitating investigations and penalties merely for communicating with a member of Congress regarding his positions on certain legislative issues, and then disseminating that information to the public through grass-roots lobbying alerts, voter guides, or other communications," according to the National Right to Life.

McCain-Feingold not only frees incumbents from pesky independent groups who just might happen to have a grievance against them, it also gives incumbents a broad band of reply time, because it mandates that broadcasters charge candidates and political parties the lowest advertising rate available during the year. It also frees them from political opponents who might not happen to be millionaires.

As stalwart Sen. Mitch McConnell recently pointed out in the New York Times, "Help from parties often provides the only chance non-incumbent and non-millionare candidates have to be competitive in congressional elections."

Other millionaires, specifically, the members of the predominately liberal media elite, are specifically excepted from McCain-Feingold. There are no prohibitions on editorials (or editorials masquerading as stories for that matter) running in the New York Times or The Washington Post. Columnist Michael Kinsley recently made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that just to be fair, perhaps the New York Times should have the amount of money it can spend on publishing restricted, or at least be prohibited from running editorials about a candidate within 60 days of an election.

Yet it shouldn´t come as much of a surprise that the campaign-finance reform campaign has been to a large degree directed and financed by liberal Democrats. A recent report from the American Conservative Union, "Who´s Buying Campaign Finance 'Reform´," revealed that heavy donors to the causes advocating campaign-finance include George Soros who has also given heavily to numerous liberal causes, including drug legalization and needle exchange programs, National Public Radio and the Million Mom March; Steven Kirsch, who spent $1.8 million against the presidential candidacy of George W. Bush; and Jerome Kohlberg, who spent more than $400,000 against Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning´s candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 1998.

In a statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate last week, Mr. McConnell accurately summed up the situation: "We haven´t taken a penny of money out of politics, we have only taken the parties out of politics. This is a massive transfer of speech away form the two great political parties to the press, to academia, to Hollywood, to billionaires … This is a stunningly stupid thing to do." Hear, hear.

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