- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

Given an opportunity to silence political opposition through a nation's airwaves, modern tyrants have seized and maintained power over huge populations. It is alarming to note that the just passed campaign-finance law is a seminal move to further undermine open and vigorous political debate in the land of the free.
Is it an overstatement to suggest that so-called campaign-finance reformers, and the legitimacy they seek through "scientific" studies, are the first wave of insidious government coercion of the body politic? Not when the Orwellian doublespeak of their tactics, and the big-lie technique of their experts, point to tyrannical ends.
The McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan team of "experts," beginning with the lawmakers themselves, has deftly introduced reams of so-called evidence underscoring the need to clean up the political process. The first major "evidence" consists of a two-year study, "Buying Time 2000," by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. Hailed by Clintonite attorneys like Seth Waxman, hired by Sens. John McCain and Russell Feingold to help defend Shays-Meehan against the omnibus constitutional attack filed by Sen. Mitch McConnell and more than two dozen plaintiffs, the study is itself a study in Clintonesque language manipulation.
Consider the definitions attached to political speech by the Brennan Center whiz kids. "Issue advocacy," limited by definition to ads that contain no demonstrable connection to any elected official or candidate for office, is acceptable, while "electioneering issue ads," or those ads that have a "negative tone," mention any candidate or bill sponsor by name, or mention a party label, are not "genuine" and are "illegal."
Interestingly, the Brennan Center elite describe group issue ads as a "shield" from federal campaign-finance law, which ostensibly makes it illegal for a campaign to promote itself in any but direct, hard money-funded ways. The BC brain trust is amazed by its finding that "candidate, party, and group ads shared similar advertising patterns over time," and worries that the flurry of so-called electioneering issue ads in the two months prior to the general election "changed the tone of the election itself."
Isn't that the point? Affecting the outcome of elections is, in fact, a critical part of all political advocacy. It is protected, and should continue to be protected, by the U.S. Constitution.
Most importantly, the plaintiffs in the McConnell lawsuit ask the question: So what?
So what that tens of millions of Americans, represented collectively by dozens of liberal, conservative and issue-based special-interest groups, spend their money to lobby the American people? The notion of independent expenditure, protected as a paramount right of speech under the U.S. Constitution and every noteworthy sacred document drafted since the founding of our nation, is that any American can speak out about public issues, political candidates and the issues that matter most to each individual.
Nevertheless, the study and its social engineer-authors make clear from the onset that organizations speaking out on issues are "sneaky," and that issue advocacy is actually a "major loophole in campaign-finance law because electioneering issue ads are usually treated as genuine issue ads for regulatory purposes." The quote from the study's executive summary speaks volumes about the arrogant and paternalistic way in which the authors and the elites they represent view the American people and free speech.
Interestingly, the congressional attorneys reviewing Shays-Meehan summarized in a report on the bill that "those who seek greater regulation seem to view the First Amendment, not as a protection to citizens from government regulation of political speech, but rather as a 'loophole' to be closed."
Southeastern Legal Foundation, as the prime funder of the McConnell legal team, will be releasing objective data and information about the Brennan Center study and its subject matter overt political speech over the next several months. Our goal, as a constitutional public interest law firm, is to underscore that political speech is vital to the health of a free republic, whether that is characterized as electioneering issue advertising or simply common sense. We believe the American people will see it's the latter.

Phil Kent is president of Southeastern Legal Foundation.

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