Friday, November 30, 2007

George F. Will on the Millionaire's Amendment

I hate the Millionaire's Amendment with the white hot passion of a million suns. I think it is nothing more than raw, naked incumbent protection and so does George F. Will.
It was in 2002, when Congress was putting the final blemishes on the McCain-Feingold law that regulates and rations political speech by controlling the financing of it. The law's ostensible purpose is to combat corruption or the appearance thereof. But by restricting the quantity and regulating the content and timing of political speech, the law serves incumbents, who are better known than most challengers, more able to raise money and uniquely able to use aspects of their offices -- franked mail, legislative initiatives, C-SPAN, news conferences -- for self-promotion.

Not satisfied with such advantages, legislators added to McCain-Feingold the Millionaires' Amendment to punish wealthy, self-financing opponents. The amendment revealed the cynicism behind campaign regulation's faux idealism about combating corruption.


So, that amendment punishes candidates who use their own noncorrupting money -- self-financing candidates cannot corrupt themselves -- to disseminate their political speech. Such candidates are penalized for exercising a fundamental right -- political speech -- that Congress cannot constitutionally curtail.

The amendment does this by increasing the access of candidates opposed by wealthy candidates to what the authors of McCain-Feingold supposedly considered the corrupting sort of money -- political contributions from donors who can give triple the amount that McCain-Feingold says can corrupt (or in the case of Senate candidates, six times that amount).

Furthermore, incumbents can benefit from the Millionaires' Amendment even when they have amassed, as most can, substantial war chests. McCain-Feingold's authors wrote this provision while pretending to reduce the influence of donors but while actually engaged in incumbent protection.
If Congress were to treat personal wealth and political wealth (i.e. campaign warchests) the same then I would have far less quarrell with the law.

Will discusses the case of Jack Davis, whose case is going to the Supreme Court on a challenge to the Millionaire's Amendment, possible even this year.

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