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Shays-Meehan 'reform': More steroids for overgrown government


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Date published: 2/15/2002

AS I WRITE, a discharge peti-
tion in the House of Repre-
sentatives will call for another vote on the Shays-Meehan bill. It frustrates me that supporters of such bills, such as letter-writer John Sovitsky ["Let's take a hard line against unchecked soft-money sleaze," Feb. 13], aggressively seek to limit my ability, and yours, to form groups to express our political views.

The First Amendment guarantees my right to associate with whomever I choose, to petition those in authority, and to speak out against that with which I disagree. Yet if this bill passes, millions of individual citizens will be treated as special interests, severely limited in our ability to influence the outcome of legislation that affects us. Shays-Meehan isn't really campaign-finance reform. It's a shameless attempt to restrict our constitutional rights.

Politicians can rig elections in two ways: They can engage in vote fraud, risking scandal and imprisonment, or they can pass election laws that give themselves an unassailable, fully legal advantage. Election-rigging through vote fraud may occur from time to time, but election-rigging through law-making is safer, more effective, and far more prevalent.

With campaign-finance laws, our elected officeholders have made it effectively illegal for challengers, independent candidates, and third parties to compete with them. The list of their unconstitutional, anti-democratic, and duopolistic transgressions against the American voter is lengthy and highly disturbing. Shays-Meehan-style reform will only compound the situation.

Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, asserts that the purpose of ballots is to facilitate the wishes of voters, not to control whom they vote for. Shays-Meehan would remove what little remaining control we have.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., challenges the rhetoric and objectives of campaign-finance reformers. He argues that reform will cut citizens out of the democratic process, and he's right.

John Eastman, director of the Claremont Institute, argues that campaign-finance restrictions undermine free elections and, therefore, the very legitimacy of government itself. How can there be democracy without free elections? Our ruling parties have already passed so many laws to protect themselves from competition that America now looks more like a banana republic than the nation of free and open elections it once was.


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