- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

When the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, their objective was to create a better tomorrow for their posterity us. Two-and-a-quarter- centuries later, we're dickering over a campaign-finance "reform" law whose lasting impact will be to secure the posteriors of political imcumbents in their seats.
The Founding Fathers acknowledged man's impulse to tyranny and therefore disseminated power broadly. In addition, they strove to guarantee the Constitution as a bulwark against tyranny by making it difficult to change it "for light and transient causes," to quote Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. The Supreme Court is empowered to guard and interpret the Constitution, and it can only be legitimately amended by a two-thirds vote in the houses of Congress and by three-quarters of the legislatures of the 50 states.
By passing this law, the House of Representatives, in essence, has eviscerated by First Amendment, indeed also the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, by seeking to amend the Constitution unlawfully.
The honest observer sees Jefferson's aforementioned words as a caution against campaign-finance reform, since the so-called reformers are trying to control the flow of money in politics, not those who spend money inappropriately, for the light and transient cause of ensuring their incumbency. Those who pushed the current version of campaign-finance reform rail against money as the agent of evil in the body politic. It is not. It has been said that "money is the mother's milk of politics." Money, in fact, is the lifeblood of politics; it is essential to produce competition and therefore vigorous political discussion. Using money appropriately or inappropriately in politics is a decision.
It is indeed ironic, and instructive, that one of the most vocal proponents of campaign-finance reform, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, is also in the forefront of an effort to eviscerate the Second Amendment, and for the same reason, i.e. he sees the gun itself as the agent of evil rather than the person who decides to use it inappropriately. And who is the economic engine behind Mr. McCain's assault on the Second Amendment? An unaccountable billionaire from Texas, who undoubtedly would be able to hire his own bodyguards if necessary.
The so-called necessity for campaign-finance reform grew out of the perfidy of a few ex-presidents and other politicians. We now know from bitter experience that character does matter, particularly where money and its use in politics is concerned. The Enron debacle is already a textbook case of the part that money plays in corrupting corruptible individuals. But ironically it disproves the need for campaign-finance reform. There is no evidence that members of President Bush's administration succumbed to the blandishments of Enron officials, even though the company had contributed mightily to his campaigns. On the other hand, under Bill Clinton the company, which had also contributed to his presidential campaigns, received government support to help it secure lucrative foreign contracts.
Corruptible people, whether they serve in industry, government or anywhere, will be corrupted by money or other objects of desire. Honest people, by definition, have chosen to make the effort to resist such temptations without regulation to instruct them. We should restrain our inclination to believe that laws in and of themselves create a just society. It is a common morality, validatedby law, that accomplishes that.
At the end of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin wasasked, "What have you wrought?" He answered, "A republic, if you can keep it." It is inconceivable that Ben Franklin or any of the Founding Fathers would endorse the efforts of Sen. McCain and his confreres in either of his big pursuits, because the success of either effort would lay every other amendment open to jeopardy, one by one. Ben Franklin's answer indicts those who support the current campaign-finance "reform" law; they would do well to ask themselves, "What have we wrought?"

William Goldcamp is a diplomatic historian and former intelligence analyst.


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