The Real Ideal of the "Reformers"
"Dream Palace of the Goo-Goos," Scott Johnson, Weekly Standard, 3/14/05
"Every reform implies an ideal state or condition to which the reformer aspires. The ideal embedded in the First Amendment is that of unrestrained speech keyed to the constitutional system of self-government. What is the ideal state suggested by the logic of campaign-finance reform? Perhaps the most revealing passage in the hundreds of pages generated by the Supreme Court justices in their opinions on McCain-Feingold comes in Justice Scalia's dissent. Scalia notes the usual good-government rhetoric regarding 'the prevention of corruption or the appearance of corruption' in which campaign-finance reform always comes wrapped. He also takes a look under the wrapping: '[L]et us not be deceived. While the Government's briefs and arguments before this Court focused on the horrible "appearance of corruption," the most passionate floor statements during the debates on this legislation pertained to so-called attack ads, which the Constitution surely protects, but which Members of Congress analogized to "crack cocaine," ..."drive-by shooting[s]," ...and "air pollution."… There is good reason to believe that the ending of negative campaign ads was the principal attraction of the legislation....' The ideal of incumbent officeholders promoting campaign-finance reform is freedom from criticism, especially at election time."