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Sunday, August 22, 2004
“Shadowy Groups” and that Pesky First Amendment Thing
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:58 am

The following is from a daily press briefing this past week that I meant to address several days ago. The quotes are all from White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan, as quoted in WaPo

The President has condemned all of the ads by the shadowy groups. We have called on Senator Kerry to join us in calling for an end to all the unregulated soft money activity that is going on in this campaign.


And the President has condemned all of the ads and condemned all of the soft money — unregulated soft money that is going on. Senator Kerry should join us in calling for an end to all of this soft money — unregulated soft money activity. Senator Kerry has declined to do so.


the President thinks that we should get rid of all of this unregulated soft money activity by these shadowy groups. It’s not known who is contributing to these groups. The President believes that there ought to be full disclosure and rapid disclosure of contributions.

Let’s think about all of this for a minute, as it shows what happens when we start passing laws that regulate political speech: it gives cause for more regulation. It is a true slipperly slope. So, here we have the Press Secretary of the President of the United States stating that there should be a ban on the ability of citizens of the United States of the America to collect money to spend for the express purpose of airing their political views. This is, to me, a stark, striking and unsettling set of statements.

And again, I say: thank you McCain-Feingold–the worst piece of legislation signed by this President, and perhaps one of the worst pieces of legislation signed in some years.

Now, it is clear that McClellan is trying to find an artful (he failed, obviously) way to condemn the Swifties without condemning them while simultaneously putting the ball in Kerry’s court. This is a political statement, not a policy one, though it is couched in policy terms. Nevertheless, this is the kind of political rhetoric that has the unfortunate capacity to end up as public policy.

Even if we all agree that we think that the 527s, taken as a whole, promote speech we don’t like, it is worth the price we have to pay as a democracy to try and filter out that speech from the public discourse? Keep in mind: selective filters rarely work as designed.

I blame the Congress for passing a bad law, President Bush for signing it (while all the while hoping and thinking that the Supreme Court would overturn it instead of having the courage to veto it), and the Supreme Court for not adequately protecting the Constitution of the United States.


  1. Amen.

    I am continually amazed that the restriction on core political speech seems to garner no attention or outrage. This is precisely the type of speech that should be essentially involate. Horrid law, horrid decision to sign the law, horrid, horrid supreme court decision upholding restrictions on what WE can say about the government and political issues.

    I shall now grind my teeth some more.

    Comment by Steven L. — Sunday, August 22, 2004 @ 11:30 am

  2. Bush is one bad-ass MFer
    Alex Knapp, Steven Taylor and Ted Barlow all agree that President Bush’s apparent call for regulation of all political speech is idiotic, although John Fund argues (somewhat, but not completely convincingly) that it’s the inevitable result …

    Trackback by Signifying Nothing — Monday, August 23, 2004 @ 4:15 pm

  3. I have moved from thinking, several years ago, that campaign funding should be restricted, to thinking that we should simply have laws that require disclosure of contributors, with no ability to hide behind fake groups.

    Sometimes, I think we should have public financing instead, but I think no. People should have the right to give to a candidate of their choosing.

    What we really need is voters who take the time to learn about the candidates, and not base their votes on packaged soundbites.

    Comment by Harry — Monday, August 23, 2004 @ 7:50 pm

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