Friday, July 13, 2007

Is McCain's Problem the McCain-Feingold Bill

Well, maybe in part. Kimberly Strassel talks about the effect McCain's signature legislation is having on his campaign.
Let's stipulate that most of the good senator's troubles stem from high-profile policy disagreements he's had with his own base. He's tweaked noses on global warming and slapped faces on immigration. His admirable decision to stand strong on Iraq has been undermined by his tendency to stand weak on national security issues such as interrogations and enemy combatants. And economic conservatives just don't trust a guy who won't admit that cutting taxes is good.

Yet while each of these issues has undoubtedly taken its financial toll, Mr. McCain has labored under yet one more burden: McCain-Feingold. He was the prime author of that 2002 law, which took direct aim at his own party and its activists, making it harder for them to collect money, register voters and voice opinions about candidates. It left the very people so vital to a campaign in its early stages--those who write checks, knock on doors, turn out for primaries--furious with him. Talks with party officials and activists today suggest that hostility remains, and has played into his money difficulties.

"For most conservatives, campaign finance is conceptually pretty easy; they saw it as targeting them," says Bradley Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, now a professor of law at Capital University and chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics. "I've been surprised at how angry people were, and remain, over that law."

Don't underestimate just how many Americans he means. Huge and influential interest groups such as the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee viewed McCain-Feingold as a direct threat to their missions. Both were among the first to sue over parts of the law, including provisions barring ads 30 to 60 days before primaries and elections.

Both also went out of their way to inform their memberships about McCain-Feingold's threats to free speech and activists' ability to target politicians who support gun laws or abortion. For years now, the NRA has bombarded its four million members with information and attacks on the law via its magazines, emails, direct mailing, telephone calls and its satellite radio program. "Our members are more politically savvy, more in tune, and they understand the impact of McCain-Feingold more than your average interest-group member," says Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs at the NRA. Which is another way of saying they aren't always keen to open their wallets for Mr. McCain.
I am one of those Americans who feel that the law is simply and encroachment on my association and speech rights. I have studied the law and its purley incumbent protectionist bent and simply marvel at the audacity of McCain to continue to support the idea that he can save politics by taking money out of politics--while at the same time trying to raise money so he can continue his campaign to take away American's speech and association rights.

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