Sunday, April 27, 2008

McCain's Murder of 1st Amendment

Great article from George Will: "The Messiness of Political Hygiene."

The First Amendment supposedly guarantees freedom of association, "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Our system of government is supposedly based on the idea of "the consent of the governed."

Some Colorado residents are finding out, however, that voicing one's consent and associating or communicating with others of like mind can be dangerous.

Two residents of a cluster of about 300 homes proposed annexation of all the homes into a nearby town. Six other residents opposed the annexation, and

began trying to persuade the rest to oppose annexation. They printed lawn signs and fliers, started an online discussion group and canvassed neighbors, little knowing that they were provoking Colorado's speech police.

The pro-annexation duo commenced legal action against opponents, following the prescription of McCain-Feingold. Not just against the original six opponents, but the legal action

said that anyone who had contacted them or received a lawn sign might be subjected to "investigation, scrutinization and sanctions for campaign finance violations."

Colorado's McCain-esque laws require that

when two or more people associate to advocate a political position, and spend more than $200 in doing so, they become an "issue committee."

As such, they probably should hire a lawyer because even Colorado's secretary of state says the requirements imposed on issue committees are "often complex and unclear." Committees must register with the government; they must fund their activities from a bank account opened solely for that purpose; they must report to the government the names and addresses of all persons who contribute more than $20; they must also report the employers of plutocrats who contribute more than $100; they must report non-cash contributions such as lemons used for lemonade, and magic markers and wooden dowels for yard signs.

Such laws clearly show the connection between property rights and "human rights." Freedom of the press means nothing if the government owns all the presses. Freedom of religion means nothing if the right can only be exercised in government-approved worship "compounds."

McCain-ites apparently believe that we not only have a "secret ballot," but that our voting intentions before election day must be kept secret from other voters, and a magic marker used to convey voting intent to other voters and change their voting intentions becomes an implement of anti-government terrorism.

John Samples of the Cato Institute accuses McCain of being a "Progressive," not a conservative, and certainly not Madisonian:

The First Amendment to the Constitution is not Progressive. It gives greater weight to the right of the individual to speak, to write, and to associate than to any collective purpose the government might have in suppressing speech. That right includes inevitably a right to spend money to speak, to write, and to associate. Without the right to spend, the other rights would have no concrete meaning.

For McCain, such self-interest should be sacrificed to the higher cause of "clean government." Hence, McCain's infamous statement on Don Imus's radio show: "I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."

"Clean" here obviously means politicians free from the restrictions of the quote Bill of Rights.

Some will support McCain's restrictions on campaigning by saying we need to avoid the appearance of corruption so that the integrity of government is maintained. Never mind that any pretense to integrity has long since passed; how does the argument that candidates should be required to disclose contributors in the interest of exposing the candidates' true loyalties or conflicts of interest apply to the Colorado residents who are speaking out against a ballot initiative where there is no human candidate at all?

Yes, but surely McCain's restrictions are not that burdensome. Right. George Will points to

an experiment by a University of Missouri professor involving 255 participants, almost all of them college graduates, [in which] the average participant correctly completed only 41 percent of the reporting requirements on three states' political disclosure forms.

Burdensome disclosure requirements and other regulations are, in effect, taxes on political speech. They deter political activism by small groups that are discouraged by the costs -- in money, time, nuisance and potential liabilities -- imposed by regulations.

As a third-party candidate for Congress, I try to sever any allegiance to contributors that conflicts with the allegiance to the Constitution I must have as a Congressman by not accepting any campaign contributions -- not from PACs, not from corporations, not from unions, not from ordinary human beings.

But I feel a great pressure against asking any ordinary American to support my campaign, knowing that my well-funded opponents can hire lawyers and commence legal proceedings against anyone making an effort to promote "Liberty Under God" by brandishing butcher paper, duct tape and a magic marker.

For more, see: Campaign Finance, Corruption, and the Oath of Office

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