Commentary Magazine


Topic: campaign finance

Another Strategy in the War on Free Speech

The war on free speech has taken an ominous turn. It was bad enough when campaign finance “reformers” were imploring the Congress and courts to stifle core political speech. But now they’ve adopted a new tactic:

Since the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. FEC, Democrats in Congress have been trying to pass legislation to repeal the First Amendment for business, though not for unions. Having failed on that score, they’re now turning to legal and political threats. Funny how all of this outrage never surfaced when the likes of Peter Lewis of Progressive insurance and George Soros helped to make Democrats financially dominant in 2006 and 2008.

Chairman Max Baucus of the powerful Senate Finance Committee got the threats going last month when he asked Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman to investigate if certain tax exempt 501(c) groups had violated the law by engaging in too much political campaign activity. Lest there be any confusion about his targets, the Montana Democrat flagged articles focused on GOP-leaning groups, including Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads.

Not since Richard Nixon has the IRS been employed to target political enemies. Where does the IRS commissioner stand on this? Is he going to take auditing directions from politicians seeking partisan advantage? It would be appropriate when Congress convenes in January for the new GOP chairmen to conduct some hearings and make sure the IRS isn’t going to allow itself to be used in this fashion. The surest way, however, to prevent that is for Democratic pols to cease using the tax authority to intimidate and attack their political opponents.

The war on free speech has taken an ominous turn. It was bad enough when campaign finance “reformers” were imploring the Congress and courts to stifle core political speech. But now they’ve adopted a new tactic:

Since the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. FEC, Democrats in Congress have been trying to pass legislation to repeal the First Amendment for business, though not for unions. Having failed on that score, they’re now turning to legal and political threats. Funny how all of this outrage never surfaced when the likes of Peter Lewis of Progressive insurance and George Soros helped to make Democrats financially dominant in 2006 and 2008.

Chairman Max Baucus of the powerful Senate Finance Committee got the threats going last month when he asked Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman to investigate if certain tax exempt 501(c) groups had violated the law by engaging in too much political campaign activity. Lest there be any confusion about his targets, the Montana Democrat flagged articles focused on GOP-leaning groups, including Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads.

Not since Richard Nixon has the IRS been employed to target political enemies. Where does the IRS commissioner stand on this? Is he going to take auditing directions from politicians seeking partisan advantage? It would be appropriate when Congress convenes in January for the new GOP chairmen to conduct some hearings and make sure the IRS isn’t going to allow itself to be used in this fashion. The surest way, however, to prevent that is for Democratic pols to cease using the tax authority to intimidate and attack their political opponents.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.'”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].'”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.'”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.'”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].'”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.'”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gen. Stanley McChrystal took the blame. But he isn’t the problem, says Jackson Diehl: “If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama. For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

It took Rolling Stone to make clear “just how badly Barack Obama’s ‘good war’ in Afghanistan is going.”

Obama took office in January 2009, yet voters think Hillary Clinton is more qualified to be president: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% of voters feel Clinton is qualified to be president, but 34% disagree and say she is not. As for President Obama, 51% say he is fit for the job. However, 44% say he is not qualified to be president, even though he has now served 17 months in the job.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell took a few hits early in his term but his approval stands at 63%, according to an internal poll.

The North Korean soccer team took a beating. (“After an embarrassing 7-0 drubbing by Portugal yesterday, will the North Korean soccer team have to face the wrath of Kim Jong Il?”) Maybe they should have hired Chinese players instead of Chinese fans.

Obama took it on the chin in court yesterday: “A federal judge in New Orleans halted President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium on Tuesday, saying the government never justified the ban and appeared to mislead the public in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman issued an injunction, saying that the moratorium will hurt drilling-rig operators and suppliers and that the government has not proved an outright ban is needed, rather than a more limited moratorium. He also said the Interior Department also misstated the opinion of the experts it consulted. Those experts from the National Academy of Engineering have said they don’t support the blanket ban.”

It took the NRA to put a bullet through the heart of campaign finance “reform”: “Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), one of just two Republican sponsors of a sweeping campaign finance bill, is so upset about late changes to the measure he is considering withdrawing his support and voting against it. ‘He’s absolutely opposed to the [NRA] exemption,’ Castle spokeswoman Kate Dickens told The Hill. ‘The exemptions are getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think they are even done yet.'”

It took Obama to put Russ Feingold’s seat at risk. “Incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold is still in a virtual dead heat with endorsed Republican challenger Ron Johnson in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal took the blame. But he isn’t the problem, says Jackson Diehl: “If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama. For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December. The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

It took Rolling Stone to make clear “just how badly Barack Obama’s ‘good war’ in Afghanistan is going.”

Obama took office in January 2009, yet voters think Hillary Clinton is more qualified to be president: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% of voters feel Clinton is qualified to be president, but 34% disagree and say she is not. As for President Obama, 51% say he is fit for the job. However, 44% say he is not qualified to be president, even though he has now served 17 months in the job.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell took a few hits early in his term but his approval stands at 63%, according to an internal poll.

The North Korean soccer team took a beating. (“After an embarrassing 7-0 drubbing by Portugal yesterday, will the North Korean soccer team have to face the wrath of Kim Jong Il?”) Maybe they should have hired Chinese players instead of Chinese fans.

Obama took it on the chin in court yesterday: “A federal judge in New Orleans halted President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium on Tuesday, saying the government never justified the ban and appeared to mislead the public in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman issued an injunction, saying that the moratorium will hurt drilling-rig operators and suppliers and that the government has not proved an outright ban is needed, rather than a more limited moratorium. He also said the Interior Department also misstated the opinion of the experts it consulted. Those experts from the National Academy of Engineering have said they don’t support the blanket ban.”

It took the NRA to put a bullet through the heart of campaign finance “reform”: “Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), one of just two Republican sponsors of a sweeping campaign finance bill, is so upset about late changes to the measure he is considering withdrawing his support and voting against it. ‘He’s absolutely opposed to the [NRA] exemption,’ Castle spokeswoman Kate Dickens told The Hill. ‘The exemptions are getting bigger and bigger. I don’t think they are even done yet.'”

It took Obama to put Russ Feingold’s seat at risk. “Incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold is still in a virtual dead heat with endorsed Republican challenger Ron Johnson in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.”

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Campaign Finance Reform? Just More Political Corruption

The effort by President Obama and congressional Democrats to sidestep the Supreme Court’s landmark free-speech ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case has sent these supposed advocates for clean elections down into the usual morass of special-interest legislation.

The Citizens United ruling overturned the McCain-Feingold federal restrictions, which prevented groups and corporations from exercising their right to comment on the behavior of our elected leaders. In this case, a so-called “reform” of campaign finance meant that incumbents had the right to silence their critics, such as in the instance that prompted the ruling, which concerned a film that was critical of Hillary Clinton and banned by the Federal Election Commission. The Court wisely saw this as a violation of the First Amendment.

Obama and the Democrats have engaged in nonstop demagoguery about this issue, which they pretend is about ensuring fairness but is actually about protecting politicians and the mainstream media from both scrutiny and competition. A measure proposed by Maryland’s Rep. Chris Van Hollen and New York’s Sen. Charles Schumer attempts to skirt the Court’s decision by adding new disclosure rulings, which will burden those attempting to speak out and is almost certainly unconstitutional. As the New York Times reports, they’ve now made it worse by granting specific exemptions to some groups but not to others. And in order to gain the votes of moderate Democrats, they’ve added the National Rifle Association to the ranks of those who will be excluded from the new regulations. That has now been changed to include all groups with 500,000 or more members. That may lead some Democrats to think they’ll escape being tarred as anti-gun in a year in which anti-incumbent fever is running high. But all this does is narrow down the government’s discrimination between speech that it likes — such as campaign expenditures by labor unions — and speech it doesn’t like — such as any group targeted by the bill — while infuriating some liberals who are appalled at having to exempt the NRA.

This law isn’t just a mess. It also illustrates everything that is wrong about so-called reform of election spending, which amounts to nothing more than deciding who can speak and who can’t. The Times treats this as just the usual congressional log-rolling, in which deals are made to avoid antagonizing some while harming others. But free speech cannot be allocated like earmark pork legislation, which doles out funds to some districts while others get nothing. But to unprincipled politicians whose main goal is to silence their critics, there is no limit as to how low they will sink in order to pass a bill that will hamstring independently financed political speech.

The effort by President Obama and congressional Democrats to sidestep the Supreme Court’s landmark free-speech ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case has sent these supposed advocates for clean elections down into the usual morass of special-interest legislation.

The Citizens United ruling overturned the McCain-Feingold federal restrictions, which prevented groups and corporations from exercising their right to comment on the behavior of our elected leaders. In this case, a so-called “reform” of campaign finance meant that incumbents had the right to silence their critics, such as in the instance that prompted the ruling, which concerned a film that was critical of Hillary Clinton and banned by the Federal Election Commission. The Court wisely saw this as a violation of the First Amendment.

Obama and the Democrats have engaged in nonstop demagoguery about this issue, which they pretend is about ensuring fairness but is actually about protecting politicians and the mainstream media from both scrutiny and competition. A measure proposed by Maryland’s Rep. Chris Van Hollen and New York’s Sen. Charles Schumer attempts to skirt the Court’s decision by adding new disclosure rulings, which will burden those attempting to speak out and is almost certainly unconstitutional. As the New York Times reports, they’ve now made it worse by granting specific exemptions to some groups but not to others. And in order to gain the votes of moderate Democrats, they’ve added the National Rifle Association to the ranks of those who will be excluded from the new regulations. That has now been changed to include all groups with 500,000 or more members. That may lead some Democrats to think they’ll escape being tarred as anti-gun in a year in which anti-incumbent fever is running high. But all this does is narrow down the government’s discrimination between speech that it likes — such as campaign expenditures by labor unions — and speech it doesn’t like — such as any group targeted by the bill — while infuriating some liberals who are appalled at having to exempt the NRA.

This law isn’t just a mess. It also illustrates everything that is wrong about so-called reform of election spending, which amounts to nothing more than deciding who can speak and who can’t. The Times treats this as just the usual congressional log-rolling, in which deals are made to avoid antagonizing some while harming others. But free speech cannot be allocated like earmark pork legislation, which doles out funds to some districts while others get nothing. But to unprincipled politicians whose main goal is to silence their critics, there is no limit as to how low they will sink in order to pass a bill that will hamstring independently financed political speech.

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Refuse to Vote Until Kagan Shows Her Cards

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams underscored the buyer’s remorse that some on the left are experiencing over Elena Kagan’s nomination:

I think they are worried. I think they’re — they feel, in part because she doesn’t have a record as a judge, that there’s no way to say that she’s predictable and that she will be a stalwart in terms of liberal positions and values and a counterweight to Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, which is what the left really wants. They want somebody who’s going to make the case for that liberal position.

So if you look at issues ranging from death penalty, to the Citizens United case on campaign finance, the sense is, “You know, are we sure where Elena Kagan stands?”

There are a few possibilities here. One is that Obama “knows” her better than the rest of the left and is convinced she’s a dependable vote (i.e., the left is in a tizzy for nothing). Another is that Obama doesn’t know any more than his base and assumed that her moderate demeanor — like his own — was a cover for radical views (i.e., the left is in a tizzy for good reason). A third is that Obama and the left are in some choreographed dance to make her seem moderate but have no real qualms about her (i.e., the left’s tizzy is fake). The latter is a bit hard to buy given the blogospheric semi-meltdown over her non-record.

What we do have is a joint interest by the right and the left in forcing Kagan to be candid — and in voting no, or delaying her nomination, if she is not. Listing the litany of hot-button issues now in the purview of the Supreme Court, Ezra Klein writes:

So where does Elena Kagan fit into all this? You’ll have to ask her. Or, more to the point, the Senate will have to ask her. And hope she’ll answer. John Roberts’s famous “umpire speech” showed the appeal of a nonphilosophical judicial philosophy, but his unexpected activist streak on the bench has shown how little we actually learned from his confirmation process. In reality, the world is made of players, not umpires, and we deserve to know whom we’re drafting.

The only way to force her to live up to her own self-proclaimed standard for candor (she previously wrote that it “is an embarrassment that Senators do not insist that any nominee reveal what kind of Justice she would make, by disclosing her views on important legal issues”) is to refrain from confirming her until she puts her cards on the table. Otherwise, both the left and the right are guessing blind on a critical, lifetime appointment.

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams underscored the buyer’s remorse that some on the left are experiencing over Elena Kagan’s nomination:

I think they are worried. I think they’re — they feel, in part because she doesn’t have a record as a judge, that there’s no way to say that she’s predictable and that she will be a stalwart in terms of liberal positions and values and a counterweight to Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, which is what the left really wants. They want somebody who’s going to make the case for that liberal position.

So if you look at issues ranging from death penalty, to the Citizens United case on campaign finance, the sense is, “You know, are we sure where Elena Kagan stands?”

There are a few possibilities here. One is that Obama “knows” her better than the rest of the left and is convinced she’s a dependable vote (i.e., the left is in a tizzy for nothing). Another is that Obama doesn’t know any more than his base and assumed that her moderate demeanor — like his own — was a cover for radical views (i.e., the left is in a tizzy for good reason). A third is that Obama and the left are in some choreographed dance to make her seem moderate but have no real qualms about her (i.e., the left’s tizzy is fake). The latter is a bit hard to buy given the blogospheric semi-meltdown over her non-record.

What we do have is a joint interest by the right and the left in forcing Kagan to be candid — and in voting no, or delaying her nomination, if she is not. Listing the litany of hot-button issues now in the purview of the Supreme Court, Ezra Klein writes:

So where does Elena Kagan fit into all this? You’ll have to ask her. Or, more to the point, the Senate will have to ask her. And hope she’ll answer. John Roberts’s famous “umpire speech” showed the appeal of a nonphilosophical judicial philosophy, but his unexpected activist streak on the bench has shown how little we actually learned from his confirmation process. In reality, the world is made of players, not umpires, and we deserve to know whom we’re drafting.

The only way to force her to live up to her own self-proclaimed standard for candor (she previously wrote that it “is an embarrassment that Senators do not insist that any nominee reveal what kind of Justice she would make, by disclosing her views on important legal issues”) is to refrain from confirming her until she puts her cards on the table. Otherwise, both the left and the right are guessing blind on a critical, lifetime appointment.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A new group, Keep Israel Safe, has an ad pummeling Obama for having no plan to thwart a nuclear-armed Iran.

Christians for a Nuclear-Free Iran sends a letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi urging them to move on the Iran-sanctions bill: “Almost five months have passed. The situation with Iran has only become more alarming. Congress has not moved. The whole world is waiting for leadership on Iran. Will it come only after it is too late?” You get the feeling that mainstream Jewish groups risk becoming irrelevant if they don’t turn up the heat on the Obami?

Meanwhile, the State Department says we are “concerned” about Syrian missiles. Soon we may be “deeply troubled.”

Fred and Kim Kagan warn: “Concerns over delays in the formation of a new Iraqi government and the prospects for meeting President Obama’s announced timeline for withdrawal are clouding views of a more urgent matter: The United States might be about to lose an opportunity for success in Iraq by tolerating a highly sectarian, politicized move to overturn Iraq’s election results. Washington must act swiftly to defend the integrity of the electoral process and support Iraqi leaders’ tentative efforts to rein in the “de-Baathification” commission that threatens to undermine the entire democratic process.”

Floyd Abrams, former ACLU head Ira Glasser, and former ACLU counsel Joel Gora lambast the ACLU for reversing its decades-old policy opposing First Amendment restrictions in the name of campaign-finance reform: “Experience has shown that the kinds of campaign finance limits the ACLU now endorses have entrenched the powers-that-be even further. Thus the ACLU is prescribing a lot of First Amendment pain for no real democratic gain. And in the process of changing its policy, the principal defender of free-speech rights will abandon that field to others. In essence, the rhetoric of egalitarianism has won a victory over freedom of speech: The new restrictions the ACLU supports will never bring about the equality it claims is its goal. This is a self-inflicted wound from which the ACLU will not soon recover.” We can only hope they are right.

A poll has Dan Coats with a double-digit lead in the Indiana GOP primary race.

Both son and father Reid are in big trouble in Nevada. Could the name be toxic?

Blanche Lincoln has stiff competition in her primary.

From the gang that wouldn’t put health-care negotiations on TV: “A handful of lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee hope to compel the Supreme Court to begin televising its proceedings.”

A new group, Keep Israel Safe, has an ad pummeling Obama for having no plan to thwart a nuclear-armed Iran.

Christians for a Nuclear-Free Iran sends a letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi urging them to move on the Iran-sanctions bill: “Almost five months have passed. The situation with Iran has only become more alarming. Congress has not moved. The whole world is waiting for leadership on Iran. Will it come only after it is too late?” You get the feeling that mainstream Jewish groups risk becoming irrelevant if they don’t turn up the heat on the Obami?

Meanwhile, the State Department says we are “concerned” about Syrian missiles. Soon we may be “deeply troubled.”

Fred and Kim Kagan warn: “Concerns over delays in the formation of a new Iraqi government and the prospects for meeting President Obama’s announced timeline for withdrawal are clouding views of a more urgent matter: The United States might be about to lose an opportunity for success in Iraq by tolerating a highly sectarian, politicized move to overturn Iraq’s election results. Washington must act swiftly to defend the integrity of the electoral process and support Iraqi leaders’ tentative efforts to rein in the “de-Baathification” commission that threatens to undermine the entire democratic process.”

Floyd Abrams, former ACLU head Ira Glasser, and former ACLU counsel Joel Gora lambast the ACLU for reversing its decades-old policy opposing First Amendment restrictions in the name of campaign-finance reform: “Experience has shown that the kinds of campaign finance limits the ACLU now endorses have entrenched the powers-that-be even further. Thus the ACLU is prescribing a lot of First Amendment pain for no real democratic gain. And in the process of changing its policy, the principal defender of free-speech rights will abandon that field to others. In essence, the rhetoric of egalitarianism has won a victory over freedom of speech: The new restrictions the ACLU supports will never bring about the equality it claims is its goal. This is a self-inflicted wound from which the ACLU will not soon recover.” We can only hope they are right.

A poll has Dan Coats with a double-digit lead in the Indiana GOP primary race.

Both son and father Reid are in big trouble in Nevada. Could the name be toxic?

Blanche Lincoln has stiff competition in her primary.

From the gang that wouldn’t put health-care negotiations on TV: “A handful of lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee hope to compel the Supreme Court to begin televising its proceedings.”

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Free Speech, Not the GOP, Is the Winner in Court Campaign-Finance Ruling

Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions of the McCain-Feingold federal campaign-finance law is a tremendous victory for free speech in the United States. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upholds the principle that that 2002 law and other similar attempts to regulate campaign finance flouted, namely, that the government should not regulate political speech.

The case grew out of a 2008 federal ban on the showing of a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, during the presidential primaries in which Hillary Clinton, the object of the movie’s criticism, was a candidate. McCain-Feingold allowed the Federal Election Commission to stop the showing of the film because a corporation produced it, even though the corporation in question was a nonprofit. This case aptly illustrated the way this law did not so much protect the electoral process from the corrupting influence of money as it protected politicians from the effects of political speech that they did not like. Far from bolstering the democratic process, McCain-Feingold suppressed it. Like just about every other campaign-finance law that has been passed since the 1970s, when the Watergate scandal gave impetus to a drive to “reform” election spending, this law did not eliminate the influence of money on politics, but it did play favorites as to which sort of speech may or may not be legal. While efforts to bring transparency into campaign finance remain laudable, the process by which money began to be shunted first into political action committees and then, in the wake of McCain-Feingold, into new classes of unaccountable groups did nothing to make the system fairer or cleaner. Instead, it granted a government agency the power to regulate or suppress the one kind of speech that the founders of our republic would have agreed was inviolate: political speech. The court has now chipped away at this expansion of federal power to allow corporations and other groups the freedom to advocate on elections as they please.

The responses to this ruling from some in the political class are predictable. President Obama has issued a call to Congress to pass legislation to overturn the will of the courts, something that we trust the new absence of a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats will render impossible.

Interestingly, among the first reactions was a blog post by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who claimed that, “at first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America.” To back this assertion up, he quoted the president’s demagogic statement that claimed the “Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

As Zeleny also noted, labor unions and a host of Left-leaning groups are now also free to spend money to publicize their views, as they like. It should also be pointed out that the notion that big business is a dependable backer of the GOP is a myth. The crony capitalism that the bank bailouts have highlighted in the past two years has aptly illustrated the fact that many industries, including the denizens of Wall Street, have a stronger loyalty to corporate welfare that benefits them than they do to the principles of free enterprise. The steady flow of money from firms such as Goldman, Sachs (the principal survivor and beneficiary of the latest shakedowns) to Democratic candidates like Obama is proof of this.

The point here is that more political speech is not a danger to the republic; it is instead the lifeblood of democracy. The only ones to gain from the suppression of views via campaign-spending laws are those politicians who are the subject of critical scrutiny. Acting in the name of “reform,” campaign-finance-restriction advocates have sought to restrict political speech, effectively empowering the politicians and the mainstream media at the expense of the electorate. In a democracy, the people must be free to sort out the views of a host of disparate elements. The free flow of critical advertisements and independent documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie challenge the monopoly of public expression that such a system breeds. Let’s hope this ruling marks the beginning of the end of an era in which the political class used its legislative power to silence their critics.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions of the McCain-Feingold federal campaign-finance law is a tremendous victory for free speech in the United States. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upholds the principle that that 2002 law and other similar attempts to regulate campaign finance flouted, namely, that the government should not regulate political speech.

The case grew out of a 2008 federal ban on the showing of a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, during the presidential primaries in which Hillary Clinton, the object of the movie’s criticism, was a candidate. McCain-Feingold allowed the Federal Election Commission to stop the showing of the film because a corporation produced it, even though the corporation in question was a nonprofit. This case aptly illustrated the way this law did not so much protect the electoral process from the corrupting influence of money as it protected politicians from the effects of political speech that they did not like. Far from bolstering the democratic process, McCain-Feingold suppressed it. Like just about every other campaign-finance law that has been passed since the 1970s, when the Watergate scandal gave impetus to a drive to “reform” election spending, this law did not eliminate the influence of money on politics, but it did play favorites as to which sort of speech may or may not be legal. While efforts to bring transparency into campaign finance remain laudable, the process by which money began to be shunted first into political action committees and then, in the wake of McCain-Feingold, into new classes of unaccountable groups did nothing to make the system fairer or cleaner. Instead, it granted a government agency the power to regulate or suppress the one kind of speech that the founders of our republic would have agreed was inviolate: political speech. The court has now chipped away at this expansion of federal power to allow corporations and other groups the freedom to advocate on elections as they please.

The responses to this ruling from some in the political class are predictable. President Obama has issued a call to Congress to pass legislation to overturn the will of the courts, something that we trust the new absence of a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats will render impossible.

Interestingly, among the first reactions was a blog post by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who claimed that, “at first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America.” To back this assertion up, he quoted the president’s demagogic statement that claimed the “Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

As Zeleny also noted, labor unions and a host of Left-leaning groups are now also free to spend money to publicize their views, as they like. It should also be pointed out that the notion that big business is a dependable backer of the GOP is a myth. The crony capitalism that the bank bailouts have highlighted in the past two years has aptly illustrated the fact that many industries, including the denizens of Wall Street, have a stronger loyalty to corporate welfare that benefits them than they do to the principles of free enterprise. The steady flow of money from firms such as Goldman, Sachs (the principal survivor and beneficiary of the latest shakedowns) to Democratic candidates like Obama is proof of this.

The point here is that more political speech is not a danger to the republic; it is instead the lifeblood of democracy. The only ones to gain from the suppression of views via campaign-spending laws are those politicians who are the subject of critical scrutiny. Acting in the name of “reform,” campaign-finance-restriction advocates have sought to restrict political speech, effectively empowering the politicians and the mainstream media at the expense of the electorate. In a democracy, the people must be free to sort out the views of a host of disparate elements. The free flow of critical advertisements and independent documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie challenge the monopoly of public expression that such a system breeds. Let’s hope this ruling marks the beginning of the end of an era in which the political class used its legislative power to silence their critics.

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Never Mind

For years Democrats have been singing John McCain’s praises each time he crossed swords with the Republican establishment. Whether on torture or campaign finance or global warming or Donald Rumsfeld, McCain was every Democrat’s favorite Republican. They liked him so much they tried to recruit him to join their party, and then their ticket, in 2004. (Mitt Romney ran an ad on just this topic during the primary.)

So when a YouTube clip of Barack Obama lauding the McCain-Lieberman climate control amendment surfaces, you can bet this is not the only one in the RNC’s vault. We can expect, as the campaign progresses, to go down YouTube’s memory lane with a parade of Democrats cheering McCain as he opposed the Bush administration and many Republican Congressional measures. Will there be an equal number of bipartisan oldie-but-goodie moments for Barack Obama? Not likely, since there’s been no one more faithful to the strict liberal voting line than he.

So the question is: what will Obama and the Democrats say in rebuttal? “Never mind”?

For years Democrats have been singing John McCain’s praises each time he crossed swords with the Republican establishment. Whether on torture or campaign finance or global warming or Donald Rumsfeld, McCain was every Democrat’s favorite Republican. They liked him so much they tried to recruit him to join their party, and then their ticket, in 2004. (Mitt Romney ran an ad on just this topic during the primary.)

So when a YouTube clip of Barack Obama lauding the McCain-Lieberman climate control amendment surfaces, you can bet this is not the only one in the RNC’s vault. We can expect, as the campaign progresses, to go down YouTube’s memory lane with a parade of Democrats cheering McCain as he opposed the Bush administration and many Republican Congressional measures. Will there be an equal number of bipartisan oldie-but-goodie moments for Barack Obama? Not likely, since there’s been no one more faithful to the strict liberal voting line than he.

So the question is: what will Obama and the Democrats say in rebuttal? “Never mind”?

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Out Obama-ing Obama

Barack Obama’s call for bipartisanship and his emphasis on ending the acrimony of old-style politics have been a big part of his appeal. It was a clever angle–both as a means of differentiating himself from Hillary Clinton who embodied take-no-prisoners partisanship and as a means of diffusing concern about his relative lack of experience (i.e. he has no axe to grind in the politics of the past). However, in a general election this approach has its limits, in part because there is no factual basis for claiming he is a great bridge-builder.

He has essentially taken up every cause of the left (from opposing confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito to supporting a bevy of tax increases) and has been absent from any of the truly bipartisan efforts, few that they may be, since he got to Washington (e.g. the Gang of 14).

As the most liberal Senator according to National Journal, he is further from the middle of the Senate and less inclined to compromise on strict party line voting than Senator Mitch McConnell (the ninth most conservative Senator) is on the other end of the spectrum. Is someone more doctrinaire in his voting record than McConnell on the Right (and Dick Durbin and John Kerry on the Left), the best person to lead us into a new era of bipartisan co-operation?

Worse still, John McCain actually can lay claim to being a bipartisan role model, which made his primary run so problematic with the GOP base. His list of bipartisan efforts on global warming, judges, campaign finance, immigration and spending reform is long and substantitve. Joe Lieberman attested to McCain’s bipartisan credentials on This Week:

Well, I don’t agree with John McCain on everything, but I agree with him on the important things. And I agree with him on the number one challenge to our political system today. We’ve got to put the national interest ahead of partisan interest. We’ve got to forget the Democrat-Republican business and remember that we’re all Americans. And unless we pull together, we’re not going to get this country to where all of us want it to be.

So having correctly diagnosed the problem (i.e. many Americans want politicians to work together more often), Obama now faces this dilemma: His own career offers no indication that he actually is disposed, other than rhetorically, to reaching across the aisle to accomodate the other side’s interests and concerns. (Does he expect to charm them with an avalanche of soothing words, envisioning that they will just capitulate on substance to his liberal policy views?) The Republicans may have stumbled into selecting an ideal foil for Obama – someone who actually has done what Obama says we need to more of.

Barack Obama’s call for bipartisanship and his emphasis on ending the acrimony of old-style politics have been a big part of his appeal. It was a clever angle–both as a means of differentiating himself from Hillary Clinton who embodied take-no-prisoners partisanship and as a means of diffusing concern about his relative lack of experience (i.e. he has no axe to grind in the politics of the past). However, in a general election this approach has its limits, in part because there is no factual basis for claiming he is a great bridge-builder.

He has essentially taken up every cause of the left (from opposing confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito to supporting a bevy of tax increases) and has been absent from any of the truly bipartisan efforts, few that they may be, since he got to Washington (e.g. the Gang of 14).

As the most liberal Senator according to National Journal, he is further from the middle of the Senate and less inclined to compromise on strict party line voting than Senator Mitch McConnell (the ninth most conservative Senator) is on the other end of the spectrum. Is someone more doctrinaire in his voting record than McConnell on the Right (and Dick Durbin and John Kerry on the Left), the best person to lead us into a new era of bipartisan co-operation?

Worse still, John McCain actually can lay claim to being a bipartisan role model, which made his primary run so problematic with the GOP base. His list of bipartisan efforts on global warming, judges, campaign finance, immigration and spending reform is long and substantitve. Joe Lieberman attested to McCain’s bipartisan credentials on This Week:

Well, I don’t agree with John McCain on everything, but I agree with him on the important things. And I agree with him on the number one challenge to our political system today. We’ve got to put the national interest ahead of partisan interest. We’ve got to forget the Democrat-Republican business and remember that we’re all Americans. And unless we pull together, we’re not going to get this country to where all of us want it to be.

So having correctly diagnosed the problem (i.e. many Americans want politicians to work together more often), Obama now faces this dilemma: His own career offers no indication that he actually is disposed, other than rhetorically, to reaching across the aisle to accomodate the other side’s interests and concerns. (Does he expect to charm them with an avalanche of soothing words, envisioning that they will just capitulate on substance to his liberal policy views?) The Republicans may have stumbled into selecting an ideal foil for Obama – someone who actually has done what Obama says we need to more of.

Read Less

McCain in Dissent

Stumping in South Carolina on Monday, John McCain unloaded on Donald Rumsfeld, calling him “one of the worst Secretaries of Defense in history.” Funny: I seem to remember that when Rumsfeld stepped down after the fall elections, McCain saluted his years of service.

Alas, this is a familiar pattern with McCain. In some ways he is one of the most admirable men in America. He seems consistent, fiercely independent, and principled. But at other times, he seems eerily reminiscent of Bill Clinton, constantly playing to reporters or to whatever audience he happens to be addressing.

Read More

Stumping in South Carolina on Monday, John McCain unloaded on Donald Rumsfeld, calling him “one of the worst Secretaries of Defense in history.” Funny: I seem to remember that when Rumsfeld stepped down after the fall elections, McCain saluted his years of service.

Alas, this is a familiar pattern with McCain. In some ways he is one of the most admirable men in America. He seems consistent, fiercely independent, and principled. But at other times, he seems eerily reminiscent of Bill Clinton, constantly playing to reporters or to whatever audience he happens to be addressing.


It turns out that McCain is best when he is in dissent. That’s when all the indignation, the toughness, and the “straight talk” come through. His reputation, after all, has been made largely through breaking ranks with Republicans, a move that never fails to win applause from the press. On issues like campaign finance and the treatment of prisoners in the war on terror, McCain loves being at odds with the White House or Senate leaders. (Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, by the way, has studied McCain closely and does a plausible version of the GOP maverick, which is rapidly becoming a stock character on Sunday talk shows.)

Being a lonely voice of reason in a crowd is not a bad trait in politics. But it is an odd position for someone hoping to lead the GOP. Today the party is fractured and desperately in need of someone who will make the case for a post-Bush Republican vision. It is a task that demands a good deal more than merely distancing yourself from past party leaders.

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