Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I’m so pissed off about this that I woke up at 2:30 am seething and I had to get up and write this. Just read this and tell me that this doesn’t deserve a gold medal in the 100 meter stupid hypocrite freestyle:

President George W. Bush plans to seek a court order to force the U.S. Federal Election Commission to stop all political advertising by independent groups, said spokesman Scott McClellan.

Bush asked Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, to help end advertising by political organizations known as 527 groups, named for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code that grants them tax-exempt status. McCain told the New York Times he disapproves of ads attacking Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, one of the 527 groups.

“The president said he wanted to work together to pursue court action to stop all activities by these shadowy 527 groups,” McClellan told reporters on Air Force One en route to New Mexico.”

The sheer audacity of the whole thing is positively breathtaking. Let us count all of the ways in which this is incredibly stupid and hypocritical:

A. It’s blatantly unconstitutional. And Bush knows it, because during the 2000 election, he said that he would veto such a law because it violates the first amendment’s free speech protections. He then went back on his promise to veto the law, and McLellan said the other day that Bush THOUGHT the law he signed DID ban political ads by independent groups. It does not, of course. And now Bush wants a judge to issue a court order to do what he thought the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform bill did. Which brings us to:

B. Judicial Activism. Isn’t it Bush and the conservatives who go ballistic whenever those “unelected judges” ignore the “clear text of the constitution” to “legislate from the bench”? When a judge determines that an unenumerated right deserves protection, the right wing howls in indignation. Now Bush wants an unelected judge to outlaw what is not only clearly legal political speech, but to do the job that he stupidly thought he had already done, and even worse to go against the clear text of the first amendment in the process? I’ll take rank hypocrisy for $1000, Alex.

C. It only helps Republicans. Republicans raise almost all of their campaign money through the campaign organizations and the parties. In the 2004 election cycle, the Republican party apparatus has raised $256 million to only $115 million for the Democrats. But in the 527 organizations, independent groups taking out ads advocating general positions rather than a specific candidate, the opposite is true, by a margin of about $130 million to $18 million. So all Bush is doing is advocating a law that would harm his opponents and not him. Pure partisan gameplaying.

D. It consolidates power in the hands of the parties rather than the people. By banning individuals and groups of individuals from taking out political ads, it means that only the candidates and the parties have the right to take out ads to persuade others and advocate their ideas. Only the parties and the candidates would have access to the airwaves, and hence to the public. Great idea, George. Let’s give the parties even more of a monopoly on shaping public opinion. That faint whooshing sound you hear coming from Virginia right now is Thomas Jefferson spinning in his grave. By all means, let’s make sure that the only way groups of people can persuade others in this country is through the corrupt parties that have royally screwed it up in the first place. We’ll put that between “new coke” and “Cop Rock” on the all-time idiocy list.

I can’t even begin to tell you how appalled I am right now. George W. Bush, you hypocritical, self-serving liar, you took an oath to uphold the Constitution. You stood there with your hand on the bible and swore an oath. Remember all those speeches you’ve given about how our brave military men are fighting to protect our Constitutional rights? You were lying through your teeth. You don’t give two shits about Constitutional rights, you’ve made that obvious. You’ll shred the first amendment in a heartbeat to gain a political advantage.

If there is a single member of Congress with any loyalty to the Constitution at all, impeachment proceedings should be started immediately. Even by the cynical standards of our dishonest political system, this is world class chutzpah. Let’s hear from the conservatives on this one – the real conservatives, the ones who were against McCain-Feingold in the first place and were angry at Bush for going back on his word and signing the bill.

If you’re still planning to vote for this cretin in November, stand up and tell me why this is not an act of rank stupidity and hypocrisy and an attempt to destroy freedom of speech for his own political advantage. It’s one thing for a politician to sell out his own principles to insure his reelection. That’s loathsome enough. But selling out the first amendment to get reelected should, in a just and rational world, disqualify you from holding any office higher than drain commissioner. You are a sellout and a fraud, Mr. Bush, and you have betrayed your office and your oath. If you had any honor you’d resign in disgrace, if only because, after spending the last 2 years telling us that the terrorists want to destroy us because they “hate freedom”, you’ve just revealed that you hate it as well.

Comments

  1. #1 Troy Britain
    August 27, 2004

    Now Ed, don’t hold back. Don’t censor yourself. Tell us how you REALLY feel…

  2. #2 raj
    August 27, 2004

    It’s amusing when people condemn judges that strike down obviously unconstitutional legislation as being “activist judges,” but apparently don’t condemn Congress, when it passes obviously unconstitutional legislation as being “activist,” or a president that signs obviously unconstitutional legislation as being “activist.”

    Is a touchstone supposed to be that the congress and president are elected? Obviously, Bush wasn’t elected. Certainly not by the electorate. He was selected–kind of–by means of a political process that is mandated in the US Constitution. As were the judges.

  3. #3 ~DS~
    August 27, 2004

    Bush is a vicious coward. That’s what many folks have been pointing out for some time now. Worse still, he’s an incompetent vicious coward.
    Given the choice between two admittedly imperfect, but nevertheless distinctly different, candidates for President, I think the choice is clear regardless if the system is corrupt or ridiculous.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    You know what I wanna see? I wanna see Bush get asked by a reporter what the legal basis for a court order banning independent organizations from taking out TV ads would be. He’d babble like an idiot trying to answer that question. Of course, he usually does that when he’s answering questions. No matter what question he’s answering, as my friend Don says, he always sounds like a 16 year old trying to explain to his dad how the dent got in the car.

  5. #5 Tim B.
    August 27, 2004

    I’ve always had a problem with equating money and speech. Perhaps Ed would enlighten me concerning the semantic integrity of such a conflation?

    I assume that you would be against the perceived liberty infringement of even McCain-Feingold, which excludes hard-money donations? How does such an exclusion affect the would-be donor’s right to free speech? Wouldn’t they be perfectly free to SAY anything they wish? How does funneling money to a campaign equate with speaking? Because, in some loose semantic construction, this *expresses* one’s wishes? I think, rather, money and speech are distinct categories and that money is not purchasing an expression, but is buying un-democratic influence.

    As far as the 527 thing goes, consider this hypothetical: a group of corporations gets together to form a 527 whose platform and monies are directed at pushing a policy to eliminate the minium wage (granted, I’m quite ignorant about just who or what can form 527s). They spend millions to put on stimulating and entertaining TV commercials. These ads describe how doing away with minimun wages would stimulate business, increase productivity, and increase investors’ share values. Their *money* buys that *speech.* But what about the millions of actual *people* who make minimum wage but who have no possibility of forming an equally funded 527 to counter the corporate one?

    I held a dollar bill up to my ear but couldn’t hear it say a word. It was as dumb as the notion that democratic access should go to the highest bidder.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    I’ve always had a problem with equating money and speech. Perhaps Ed would enlighten me concerning the semantic integrity of such a conflation?

    This isn’t about equating money and speech, it’s about equating speech and speech. What Bush has proposed banning is not the ability of people to give money to non-profit advocacy groups, but the ability of those groups to take out ads on the airwaves.

    I assume that you would be against the perceived liberty infringement of even McCain-Feingold, which excludes hard-money donations? How does such an exclusion affect the would-be donor’s right to free speech? Wouldn’t they be perfectly free to SAY anything they wish? How does funneling money to a campaign equate with speaking? Because, in some loose semantic construction, this *expresses* one’s wishes? I think, rather, money and speech are distinct categories and that money is not purchasing an expression, but is buying un-democratic influence.

    You’re conflating two entirely different issues. McCain-Feingold sets limits on how much one person or corporation can donate to a candidate or a party. What Bush is proposing is that all “independent” organizations – meaning non-profit political advocacy organizations, including unions, environmental groups, human rights groups, trade groups, PACs, or just a group of friends who agree – be prohibited by law from buying ads. And further, he is proposing that a judge should impose that law rather than the legislature because he was too stupid to understand what the law he signed actually did. Under Bush’s proposal, the only groups that would be allowed to take out political ads – meaning the only groups with access to the airwaves to speak to the public – would be the parties. That is clearly a first amendment violation. Can you imagine a law saying that only businesses, or only political parties, or only churches, are allowed to make webpages, or print pamphlets? This is the very same thing.

    As far as the 527 thing goes, consider this hypothetical: a group of corporations gets together to form a 527 whose platform and monies are directed at pushing a policy to eliminate the minium wage (granted, I’m quite ignorant about just who or what can form 527s). They spend millions to put on stimulating and entertaining TV commercials. These ads describe how doing away with minimun wages would stimulate business, increase productivity, and increase investors’ share values. Their *money* buys that *speech.* But what about the millions of actual *people* who make minimum wage but who have no possibility of forming an equally funded 527 to counter the corporate one?

    Actually, your example cuts the other way. Corporations are entirely free to buy advertisements now. If this were the case, Bush’s law would prevent unions, for example, from taking out ads to counter the corporations. 527s are specifically non-profits and PACs, not corporations.

  7. #7 ~DS~
    August 27, 2004

    BTW, it was revealed today in DarkSyd’s World that, on the advice of WH legal counsel, President-Elect Bush was crossing his fingers on his hidden hand when he was swore in and silently muttered ‘neener-neener-neener’ under his breath, thus invalidating any promises or statements made during the ceremony.
    WH lawyers were busy writing up the precise legal definition of the ‘crossed finger privilege’ which excludes the President from defending the constitution, but avoided direct questions by simply responding “Look, any kindergarten kid knows this is a legitimate defense”.

  8. #8 Perry Willis
    August 27, 2004

    I was involved in one of the legal challenges to McCain-Feingold that was considered by the Supreme Court recently. Tim B.’s post is so full of legal misunderstandings it makes my head spin. I would hardly know where to begin in correcting all of his errors of fact and logic, so I’ll just point out one thing: the First Amendment does not only protect speech. It also protects the freedom of the press and of association.

    The campaign finance laws aim at monopolizing political power, and that is where we are headed, step by legislative step. And no group, other than the politicians themselves, is doing more to bring about this outcome than liberal advocates of campaign finances laws. They intend to control corporate power, but they are unwittingly giving that power a deed to the government.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    The campaign finance laws aim at monopolizing political power, and that is where we are headed, step by legislative step. And no group, other than the politicians themselves, is doing more to bring about this outcome than liberal advocates of campaign finances laws. They intend to control corporate power, but they are unwittingly giving that power a deed to the government.

    That’s the ultimate irony here – the opposition to even the far milder provisions of the McCain-Feingold law came primarily from conservatives and libertarians, not from liberals. It was the conservatives who were upset when Bush reneged on his promise to veto the bill. Now, after McLellan admitted that Bush was so clueless that he didn’t even know what that bill DID, Bush proposes to go much further than that bill to an outright ban on all organizations independent of the parties taking out ads. And he proposes to have a judge issue an order to do so rather than trying to pass legislation when there is no legal basis for such a ruling, which is the very essence of real judicial activism (as opposed to the fake claims of judicial activism you hear so often from conservatives). There just isn’t another level of hypocrisy to be found here, it’s absurd and hypocritical on every possible level.

  10. #10 Jim Anderson
    August 27, 2004

    You know those old Bugs Bunny shorts where Elmer Fudd would saw off the branch Bugs was standing on, but the tree would fall, leaving Bugs (and his sawed-off branch) floating in mid-air?

    Change the analogy slightly. Bush is Bugs, blithely cutting himself free of his support base, yet still standing. If he wins the upcoming election, we’ll have to rewrite the laws of physics.

  11. #11 Joshua White
    August 27, 2004

    “If you’re still planning to vote for this cretin in November, stand up and tell me why this is not an act of rank stupidity and hypocrisy and an attempt to destroy freedom of speech for his own political advantage.”

    I’m not going to tell you that it is not rank stupidity and hypocrisy and an attempt to destroy freedom of speech for political advantage, because it is. I’m still voting for him however for one simple reason; more of those who want to kill as many of my countrymen as possible will die under Bush than under Kerry. I’m convinced of that but I am willing to be proven wrong. Like I said Bush is the lesser of two evils to me.

    I’m convinced that the courts will never let him get away with such a thing nor should they. This is as insane as Alan Keys.

  12. #12 Tim B.
    August 27, 2004

    My clumsy and ignorant 527 example deserved correction. I’m learning. Thank you.

    I brought up McCain-Feingold, again perhaps ignorantly, as a way of broadening the discussion, realizing that it was a different issue than the 527 thing. I was simply wondering if libertarians had considered the possibility that the rich (individuals and corporations), using money as speech, were gaining a louder voice and greater influence over policies that might harm or contradict the wishes of the “average” person, generally, and the poor person, specifically. Just wondering, if in a democratic society, certain limitations on “speech” liberty would be acceptable…if Ed is for or against McCain-Feingold.

    Perry Willis offers a thought-provoking take on the issue, for me a counterintuitive way of considering that liberals might be doing self harm in their attempts to constrain corporate campaign donations. I’ll have to mull that one over and would appreciate any additional enlightenment.

    But regarding free association, I’m scratching my own spinning head over how restraining influence money equates with denying anyone the ability to socially mingle.

    Well, I’m no lawyer. And I’m even naive enough to find objectionable the Supreme Court’s 1886 pseudo-ruling (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad) that led to granting corporations the right of personhood. To me, they are not persons — how silly and absurd to think they are — therefore, they should have no legal access to the First Amendment.

  13. #13 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    I brought up McCain-Feingold, again perhaps ignorantly, as a way of broadening the discussion, realizing that it was a different issue than the 527 thing. I was simply wondering if libertarians had considered the possibility that the rich (individuals and corporations), using money as speech, were gaining a louder voice and greater influence over policies that might harm or contradict the wishes of the “average” person, generally, and the poor person, specifically. Just wondering, if in a democratic society, certain limitations on “speech” liberty would be acceptable…if Ed is for or against McCain-Feingold.

    This is a much more complex issue than Bush’s proposal, which is a clear violation of the first amendment. And my views are admittedly in flux on the question of whether giving money is the same thing as speech, and on the question of whether a corporation should be treated as an individual for purposes of legal standing. I see arguments on both sides of that one.

    In general, I am sympathetic to the argument that corporate money buys enormous political power and that we should find some way to limit that, or at least minimize the effect in order to protect the integrity of our political system (I think, for example, that political campaigns should be like Nascar races – the candidate should have to wear a patch on his sportcoat for every company that gives him money, and the limo he travels in should be covered with the logos of every donor). But Bush’s proposal would not only not do that, it would do the opposite by prohibiting any public interest group from competing equally in the marketplace of ideas by denying them access to the airwaves. Only the political parties would be allowed to advocate their ideas.

    It would be like Bush saying, “Christianity is a good thing, so from now on only Christian churches will be allowed to make webpages advocating their positions. Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and atheists can still believe what they wanna believe, and they can still talk about it, but they no longer have access to the internet.” No one in their right mind would accept that.

  14. #14 raj
    August 27, 2004

    Tim B. at August 27, 2004 10:19 AM

    >I’ve always had a problem with equating money and speech. Perhaps Ed would enlighten me concerning the semantic integrity of such a conflation?

    Ed’s response is correct, but to respond to your issue, donating money to a candidate or a 527 would be considered symbolic speech. The US SupCt has determined symbolic speech to also be protected under the 1st amendment. It is tantamount to saying that you agree with the respective candidate’s or 527′s message and wish to help them publish the message.

    The US SupCt has used symbolic speech as the basis for striking down laws against desecration of the American flag to express displeasure with the respective administration’s policies. It should be noted, on the other hand, that people “wave the flag” to express agreement with the respective administrations policies. The latter would also be considered symbolic speech.

  15. #15 ~DS~
    August 27, 2004

    It is difficult to get a handle on how serious Bush is about this. My guess is that it’s simply a response to the demands that he criticize the SBVFT ads and that’s he’s not serious at all. Even if some token legislation were to be proposed on this, I don’t see how it would have a chance in hell of passing. Rather it seems reasonable that such statements, and even proposed changes in funding, are posturing by politicians who figure they’re not doing any real harm in the process.

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    It is difficult to get a handle on how serious Bush is about this. My guess is that it’s simply a response to the demands that he criticize the SBVFT ads and that’s he’s not serious at all. Even if some token legislation were to be proposed on this, I don’t see how it would have a chance in hell of passing. Rather it seems reasonable that such statements, and even proposed changes in funding, are posturing by politicians who figure they’re not doing any real harm in the process.

    I don’t really believe that Bush will try and pass such a law, but I’m very curious to see if he goes into court as he said he would to gain a court order. And I’m dying to see what sort of legal basis they think they have for such a challenge. Bush has played stupid games with this from the start. He said he’d veto the bill, then he signed it, then he delayed naming new members of the FEC until after the administrative rules were written to implement the Act (and McCain came out and literally called him a liar in public for doing that because it broke a promise he made to McCain when the bill was passed). Then he said he thought the act did something different than what it did (which makes him either astonishingly stupid or dishonest, take your pick), and now he wants to go even further. This has been a political game from the beginning, which in my view makes it even worse. He took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution, yet he casually throws out proposals that he knows are unconstitutional to score political points during the campaign. The whole affair either shows that he is immensely stupid, or that he has no problem with toying with the constitution for shallow political purposes. Either way, he has destroyed his credibility in my eyes permanently.

    I don’t wanna hear any more nonsense about how patriotic he is and how he’s just a “plain spoken man” trying to do the right thing, or how he’s “keeping the faith” with our boys in uniform or whatever other bullshit his supporters wanna peddle. He has shown conclusively that he is either an utter moron blindly following his political advisers off the cliff, or he is completely devoid of principle and has betrayed his oath of office. Either way, he is loathsome in my view.

  17. #17 Tim B.
    August 27, 2004

    I think there’s a lurking flaw in the symbolic speech argument (law). Just about anyone can wave or burn a flag to non-verbally represent an issue. Even a poor person, who can’t afford to purchase a flag, can fashion one up from an old sheet. In other words, such silent speech-acts are broadcastable with an equalitarian decibel level. But money?

    Why should a Wal-Mart CEO, symbolically “speaking” through his money, be entitled legally to a louder “voice” than his exploited, low-wage, locked-in-at-night worker?

    Money is not symbolic speech. It is simple power.

  18. #18 ~DS~
    August 27, 2004

    Yeah I’d love to see him get pinned down on the specifics of this (Not to mention a whole shitload of other dumbass and frightning stuff he’s said). He’d stumble and bumble and I get sick of seeing our media lob him softball after softball when given the chance.

    He has shown conclusively that he is either an utter moron blindly following his political advisers off the cliff, or he is completely devoid of principle and has betrayed his oath of office. Either way, he is loathsome in my view.

    I’d say those two explanations are by no means mutually exclusive.

  19. #19 Steve
    August 27, 2004

    Ney York Times Article 8/26
    “Mr. Bush portrayed himself as a victim of the same type of political interest groups – called 527 committees for the section of the tax code that created them – that are attacking Mr. Kerry.

    ” “I understand how Senator Kerry feels – I’ve been attacked by 527′s too,” he said, adding that he had spoken earlier in the day to Senator John McCain and had agreed to join him in a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission to bar the groups.”

    the Bloomberg article you posted is about an interview Bush had with the New York Times.

    Here is some more from the New York Times.
    “Mr. McCain said later that he would work with Mr. Bush “in the courts and through legislation” to increase restrictions on the outside groups, called 527′s for the section of the tax code that created them.

    The groups are allowed to receive unlimited donations as long as they do not coordinate with federal candidates or parties.

    Lawyers for Mr. Bush said Thursday that they were drafting two lawsuits. One, they said, is intended to expedite their complaint before the Federal Election Commission that Moveon.org, the Media Fund and America Coming Together, liberal groups running ads against the president, were illegally coordinating with Mr. Kerry. The other lawsuit, they said, would seek tighter restrictions on the groups’ activities.

    Mr. McCain has argued that the groups should be barred from raising unlimited “soft money” donations because they are essentially working as political committees.

    Mr. Bush’s invitation to work with Mr. McCain brought the two men full circle. In their bitter primary battle in 2000, Mr. McCain trumpeted his signature proposal to overhaul the campaign finance law and ban the national parties from using unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals. When Mr. McCain’s proposal passed Congress despite the overwhelming opposition of the Republican leadership, Mr. Bush signed it, but underscored his lack of enthusiasm by doing it with no ceremony and without Mr. McCain or any of the bill’s other main sponsors by his side.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/27/politics/campaign/27swift.html

    Has Mr Bush really said he wants to outlaw ALL privately funded ads and only allow the Democrat and Republican political parties to speak?

    Maybe he is saying these 527 groups constitute political parties and should be governed by the same rules that govern the Democrat and Republican Parties under McCain-Feingold.

  20. #20 Tim B.
    August 27, 2004

    The vibe I get from Bush is that he’s either never read the Constitution or, if he has, he wasn’t intelligent enough to absorb its meanings and implications. He’s the most arrogant, unprincipled, and reprehensible human being now observable on the national stage. And based on his orders, nearly 1000 US soldiers have perished in Iraq — where is the crushing weight of such a decision apparent in his body language?…instead, he struts, smirks, laughs…conscience-free.

  21. #21 Jim Anderson
    August 27, 2004

    Ed, here’s the direct quote from Bush during the 2000 campaign: “You know, let me–let me say something to you. People have the right to run ads.They have the right to do what they want to do, under the–under the First Amendment in America.” Whole thing here.

  22. #22 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    Has Mr Bush really said he wants to outlaw ALL privately funded ads and only allow the Democrat and Republican political parties to speak?

    From his press secretary last week:

    We have been on the receiving end of more than $62 million in negative political attacks from these shadowy groups that are funded by unregulated soft money. And the President has condemned all of the ads and activity going on by these shadowy groups. We’ve called on Senator Kerry to join us and call for an end to all of this unregulated soft money activity. And so we continue to call on him to join us in condemning all these ads and calling for an end to all of this activity…The President has condemned all of this kind of activity, and he should join us in doing the same and calling for an end to all of it.”

    And yesterday:

    McClellan said the goal is “to shut down all of this activity by these shadowy groups”…

    Bush has criticized all outside group attack ads, including the Swift Boat Veterans group’s first commercial. He has said he wants the ads to stop, but has not explicitly condemned the charges made in the Swift Boat ad.

    And yesterday again:

    “The president said he wanted to work together to pursue court action to stop all activities by these shadowy 527 groups,” McClellan told reporters on Air Force One en route to New Mexico.”

    He hasn’t said, “I think they should be held to the same restrictions as the parties”. He has said, through his mouthpiece, that he wants to end all activities by 527 organizations completely.

  23. #23 raj
    August 27, 2004

    Tim B. at August 27, 2004 01:28 PM

    Money is not symbolic speech. It is simple power.

    That’s fine. I didn’t say that I necessarily agreed with the idea that donating money to a candidate or cause was symbolic speech. I said that that was the basis for the consideration that donating money was protected under the first amendment. And it is.

    Regarding your hypothetical “Just about anyone can wave or burn a flag to non-verbally represent an issue. Even a poor person, who can’t afford to purchase a flag, can fashion one up from an old sheet. In other words, such silent speech-acts are broadcastable with an equalitarian decibel level. But money? Why should a Wal-Mart CEO, symbolically “speaking” through his money, be entitled legally to a louder “voice” than his exploited, low-wage, locked-in-at-night worker?”

    Well, it’s true that just about anyone can afford to purchase a flag to burn or wave, or manufacture one him- or herself. On the other hand, your WalMart CEO can use his or her wealth to hire more than a few people to burn or wave flags on his/her behalf, thereby amplifying his/her message. The circumstances aren’t really that different from a “symobolic speech” standpoint.

  24. #24 Jim Anderson
    August 27, 2004

    Ed wrote,

    He hasn’t said, “I think they should be held to the same restrictions as the parties”. He has said, through his mouthpiece, that he wants to end all activities by 527 organizations completely.

    He’s also said it himself.

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, I understand how Senator Kerry feels — I have been attacked by 527s, too. I think it’s a — the issue is, let’s get rid of them all. That’s where we ought to be — that’s where this debate ought to be, how to get rid of this money that’s flowing into the system.

    Ms. Bumiller: Can I just try one more time? You don’t want to address that specific advertisement. Will you condemn it?

    THE PRESIDENT: All those ads ought to go, Elisabeth, every one of them, including the ads that have been run on me. Millions of dollars have poured into this system in an unregulated fashion. And for 12 months there was silence. And all of a sudden now, people are taking exception to unregulated soft money. And John and I are going to work together to try to — we’re going to file a lawsuit trying to end the process, not only for the money being on TV, but for the money that’s involved in other parts of the process. And I hope you join us.

  25. #25 ~DS~
    August 27, 2004

    Technically though, isn’t Moveon a PAC vs a 527? I assume Bush would like to see Moveon go as well and that that was one of the ‘shadowy groups’ he was referring to.

  26. #26 Dan
    August 27, 2004

    I saw the White House press briefing transcript from earlier in the week when McClellan announced Bush’s position on this. Like Ed and many commenters here, my initial reaction was disbelief over the intellectual bankruptcy it demonstrated. But then it became clear that the Republicans had done it to the Democrats yet again: taken a high profile issue and outplayed the Democrats at politics. Recall how this issue reached a boiling point: Kerry accuses Bush of hiding behind SBVfT, and calls on him to denounce the ad. Bush responds, saying he doesn’t think Kerry lied about his Vietnam service, but declining to denounce the specific ad, saying instead that he deplores the system for allowing groups to be able to buy ads with soft money, and calling on courts to ban these ads. (Put aside, again, the bankruptcy of this position, just for the moment.) Kerry obviously won’t take the bait; it remains to be seen what he’ll say, but you can be sure he won’t join Bush on this issue. What will the Republicans then do? Look for something like this: “OK, now we understand. Senator Kerry doesn’t want to ban all attack ads funded by soft money. He just wants to ban the attack ads funded by soft money that attack him.”

    The Republicans have been masterful at playing Democrats into this sort of corner for years. The Republicans know that Joe and Jane Public won’t pay attention to the subtleties of the issue — the constitutionality of what Bush suggests, or the hypocrisy of his position, etc. The only message that the electorate remembers is the soundbite: “Bush calls for end to all attack ads; Kerry declines to join.” The Republicans get this; the Democrats don’t. I’m not a Kerry fan, and I’d vote for a houseplant over Bush (no pun intended), but you have to give credit where credit is due: I’m amazed and disappointed at how often Kerry gets out-foxed by Bush and Company. They simply know how to play politics more effectively than the Democrats. Of course, that’s a less-than-ringing endorsement of the American electorate, but that too should not surprise the folks who hang out here.

  27. #27 Bill Ware
    August 27, 2004

    Joshua said “I’m still voting for [Bush] however for one simple reason; more of those who want to kill as many of my countrymen as possible will die under Bush than under Kerry.”

    Maybe so, but the way Bush is going about it, for every one of these who are killed, ten others arise to take their place.

    Before Iraq was invaded, there were perhaps a half dozen “terrorists” passing through on the way to Iran and Syria. Now there are thousands.

    Better to fight them there than here Bush tells us. Try explaining that to the people involved in the Madrid train bombings.
    B

  28. #28 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    Technically though, isn’t Moveon a PAC vs a 527? I assume Bush would like to see Moveon go as well and that that was one of the ‘shadowy groups’ he was referring to.

    According to this page (if I’m reading it correctly), a group can be both a PAC and tax exempt under rule 527:

    527 Group – A tax-exempt group organized under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise money for political activities including voter mobilization efforts, issue advocacy and the like. Currently, the FEC only requires a 527 group to file regular disclosure reports if it is a political party or political action committee (PAC) that engages in either activities expressly advocating the election or defeat of a federal candidate, or in electioneering communications. Otherwise, it must file either with the government of the state in which it is located or the Internal Revenue Service. Many 527s run by special interest groups raise unlimited “soft money,” which they use for voter mobilization and certain types of issue advocacy, but not for efforts that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate or amount to electioneering communications.

    It appears that MoveOn is both a 527 and a PAC.

  29. #29 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    Dan-

    I think you’re right, this is all about political game playing and the Republicans play it better than the Democrats. They know that it doesn’t matter that Kerry didn’t call for the Swift Boat ads to be banned, but only for Bush to condemn the ads, as he condemned the MoveOn ads about Bush (which was of course also hypocritical as Kerry loves those ads and distanced himself from them only for appearances). There is of course an enormous difference between “you should condemn dishonest ads” and “we should ban all ads of any kind”, but that kind of subtlety is likely lost on the public (though it’s really not subtle at all, which only goes to show how shockingly dumb most people are). Yes, you really CAN fool most of the people most of the time and the Republicans play that game very, very well. The Democrats play with as much zeal and hypocrisy, of course, they just aren’t nearly as good at it.

  30. #30 Perry Willis
    August 27, 2004

    Thanks to Tim B. for his open and generous posts. My own post in repsonse to him was a little more hot than it should have been. Having spent 20 years struggling under the burdens of the campaign finance laws, and two years of my life mounting a legal challenge to them, it’s a bit of a touchy subject for me.

    It’s also a complex subject. You might want to check out some of the material posted at RealCampaignReform.org, including my expert testimony in the McCain-Feingold case.

    The issue regarding speech, symbolic speech, etc., is largely irrelevant in my view because of the other First Amendment protections for the press and association. If you can’t collect money from others then your right to associate with others has been impinged, and if you can’t collect money from others it’s damned hard to run a press, or any elecontronic equivalent thereof. The corporate press constantly publishes and broadcasts opinions about political campaigns, but they are not forced to operate under the campaign finance laws. Only the campaigns themselves are. Incumbents have ready access to the corporate press. Challengers do not. This is highly signficant.

    Another important point: Incumbents and large special interests have the resources to negotiate the campaigns finance laws, challengers do not. One of the most painful things for me during the oral arguments over the McCain-Feingold case was listening to Justice Breyer pontificate about all the ways challengers and minority viewpoints could negotiate around the barriers imposed by the laws. He lives in an Ivory Tower and not in the real world where his rulings are actually applied. In the real world these laws cripple challengers and protect incumbents and the powerful interests that benefit from incumbent policies.

    This is a very complex issue, but one of the most important things to understand is that campaign contributions are only one of the ways special interests buy favors from incumbents. There are a whole host of other mechanisms of influence that matter far more than campaign contributuions, including personal relationships and business oportinities that are made available to incumbents after they leave office.

    Restricting campaign cntributions doesn’t hurt incumbents much (for a whole variety of complex reasons), but they absolutely cripple challengers and minority viewpoints. And that is exactly their purpose. The campaign finance laws are not what they appear to be, and they accomplish the very opposite of what they claim to accomplish. They entrench the powers that be and the interests that benefit from their policies.

    And now Bush wants to de facto outlaw political speech by anyone other than those who have power.

  31. #31 rtbuck84@hotmail.com
    August 27, 2004

    “This is a complex issue.”

    Thanks, Perry, for the additional explication. I realize now that things are not as straightforward and simple as I first thought.

    In my perfect world, I’d ban corporations from Bill-of-Rights standing and make corporate lobbying at the federal level a crime against democracy (they would, once again, be put under the purview and enforcement of communities, have charter reviews, and have only the right of contract). In the real, Looking-Glass world, however, corporations purchase and weasel policy to the detriment of the People, entrenching a neo-feudalism.

  32. #32 Tim B.
    August 27, 2004

    I guess I typed my email address in the “name” box by mistake.

  33. #33 Ed Brayton
    August 27, 2004

    Perry-

    How fascinating, I had no idea you had such a background but reading your testimony was fascinating. In my opinion, Andre Marrou was the most compelling candidate the Libertarian Party has had and I wonder why he has disappeared. Can you give any insight on that? I look at Badnarik, about whom I have written with a good deal of scorn in the past, and think, “boy, this isn’t a good trend.”

  34. #34 Tim B.
    August 27, 2004

    Perry,

    After reading your expert testimony, I’ve gained a richer understanding of the subtleties involved. Your argument about enforcing the 10th Amendment and constraining government from special interest entanglement is compelling.

    “And Libertarians are especially disadvantaged in that we are philosophically opposed to the expansive and activist state that is the source of special interest government favors.”

    But I’m not completely persuaded that the root disease is government activism. I keep thinking about that fallacious 1886 court decision that ostensibly set a precedent for corporate personhood. To me, the root problem lies there, the cure to cut off toxic special interests from government, not government from them. I’m curious how a Libertarian, such as yourself, would view a proposal to roll back corporate personhood?

  35. #35 Perry Willis
    August 28, 2004

    Tim B. — thanks for the kind comment on my testimony. I’m impressed you read it. I know it’s hard slogging. I wrote it on a tight deadline in the space of 24 hours with long distance input from an attorney, so it’s not as cleanly written as I would have liked.

    Here are my thoughts on corporations and corporate influence . . .

    Is there any practical difference between government favors bought by a privately owned company or interest versus government favors bought by a publicly owned company? It seems to me that the impact is the same. And it also seems to me that there would be no public auction for government favors if the goverment had few, if any, favors to bestow.

    This was the idea behind the 10th Amendment. If most governmental functions were reserved to the states there wouldn’t be such a feeding frenzy for government preference because those special favors would carry less weight and have less value, and would be more distributed. There would also be a competition between states to find an optimal mix of services and taxation. Decentralized government seems like a very liberal idea to me, and of course it WAS a liberal idea before the socialists took over the word liberal (thus creating the need for the word libertarian).

    I haven’t really studied the nuances involved in the personhood of corporations, but I do have a few casual thoughts. Publicly owned companies provide a non-coercive means for workers to gain ownership of the means of production. It’s a kind of free market Marxism. And the widespread ownership of corporations, primarily through pension funds, shows that it works pretty well for this purpose. We should sometimes remind ourselves that when we speak against corporations we are often speaking against Grandma and Grandpa’s livelyhood. Social Security only provides enough income for a tin lean-to and a steady diet of cat food. Stock ownerhsip through pension funds is often the difference between a decent life and abject poverty (with considerable help from home equity). Even so . . .

    I think there are real problems with corporations,as there are with all collective institutions. There tends to be a disconnet between authority and responsibilty. Corporate managers have the authority to allocate corporate resources, but they seem to enjoy the benefits of their successes more than the penalties of their mistakes. Sadly, I don’t know how to fix this problem, any more than I know how to dispense with corporations. Corporations accumulate and mobilize capital more effectively than any other human institution, and we would all be consderably poorer without them.

    All I know is that government suffers from the same defects of collective ownership and management as corporations, but without the mediating influence of market competition because government has a monopoly on the power of coercion. Luckily, I do know what to do about this problem — limit and decentralize government power severely.

    As for the “personhood” of corporations, I ask myself whether such entities would come about naturally through an evolutionary process in an anarcho-marketplace. I think the answer is yes. The first time someone signed a contract with a company that included a clause limiting liability to the assets of the company that company would have legal personhood. So if you ask me whether corporate personhood should be established by statute, I would say no, because it can be established on an ad hoc, as-needed-basis through non-coercive free market relationships. I hope this makes sense.

    All for now.

  36. #36 Perry Willis
    August 28, 2004

    Ed —

    I hope the fascination you had with my testimony was one of interest rather than amusement! I assume the former and say thank you. As for your other comments . . .

    Andre Marrou, on his good days, was a very good candidate. Congressman Ron Paul was even better. The best, I think, was Harry Browne. Michael Badnarik seems like a very nice man, but he’s no Harry Browne. Many of his statements, and much of his lifestyle, are too quirky for me. Beyond this I wouldn’t want to comment in a public forum.

    I am no longer involved in the Libertarian Party. Part of the libertarian critique of government is that collective decision making doesn’t work very well. We also dislike zero-sum games. The Libertarian Party suffers from both defects. It allocates resources on a political basis, through voting, and one proposed use of resources precludes others. This leads to envy, resentments, and faction fighting. It’s a toxic situation. So I have decided that partisan politics is not the answer, and have moved on to other things.

    One of the things I enjoy most is reading your blog. Your interests are like mine, and you analyze most things in exactly the way I would. Sometimes it feels like I’m looking in a mirror. Keep up the good work.

    Perry

  37. #37 Tim B.
    August 28, 2004

    Perry,

    Actually, I found reading your testimony far from a slog. It was coherently laid out, clearly and succinctly expressed.

    Your response to me about corporate personhood is also mind-expanding, adding more substance and complexity to the issue than I thought was there.

    I’m not opposed to corporations per se, and I agree about some of the positive things you mentioned concerning them. I’m opposed to their political power and reach, and that, as legal “persons,” they have gained more rights and access than an ordinary US flesh-and-blood person.

    Although your prediction that corporations might have evolved into personhood without judicial imprimatur is interesting and plausible, my persisting gripe has to do with the loss of public control over these financial gargantuas. This loss of control — owing to becoming legal “persons” — has led to a de facto Corporate State. Everything about this state of affairs seems, to me, to fly in the face of our Founders’ democratic intentions. A case in point is the mega-media conglomerates that constrict the flow of information necessary for a vibrant democracy, such as the GE-NBC diabolism that helps a military-involved industry to cheerlead the government actions that put money in its corporate coffers.

    And isn’t it appalling to consider how little influence the commonwealth (actual affected human persons) has in clamping down on industrial pollution?

    And Halliburton’s million-dollar wrist-slaps for defrauding the government — I think they should have had their corporate charter abolished, instead.

    Corporations are a fact of life, but I think they should be reduced in power and reach. In case you’d be interested in the history of corporate personhood (the pseudo-precedent), the book Gangs of America by Ted Nace is, I think, worthwhile.

  38. #38 Ed Brayton
    August 28, 2004

    Perry-

    My fascination was definitely due to interest, not to amusement. I have never been involved with the Libertarian Party itself. I consider myself a small ‘l’ libertarian. I have voted libertarian since 1992, when Marrou first really gave voice to many of the positions I take. I’m not a dogmatic libertarian, there are issues on which I tend to disagree with the party, and some on which I am a bit ambivalent. One of those is the question that has come up in these comments, whether corporations should be viewed as the equivalent of individuals for the purpose of legal protections. It’s not a question I’ve spent much time exploring, so I’m glad to see it come up here and have you and Tim discuss it so I can learn from the different perspectives. I’d like to hear from some of my other libertarian-minded readers on that question as well, particularly Jon Rowe and Timothy Sandefur, whose views I always find challenging.

  39. #39 ~DS~
    August 30, 2004

    Corporations are a fact of life, but I think they should be reduced in power and reach. In case you’d be interested in the history of corporate personhood (the pseudo-precedent), the book Gangs of America by Ted Nace is, I think, worthwhile.

    As a adjunct follow-up, If I was going to point out an example of inappropriate corporate influence in the halls of power, my number one complaint would be on prescription drug policy. I’ve spent hours trying to understand the various Medicare prescription drug plans and I’m still baffled by the complexity of it all.
    That legislation, along with a fucking ban on our government orgs from negotiating prices on drugs, was bought and paid for by (legal) drug money and is in direct conflict with the public interest. It’s tragically funny because in almost all other government purchases we require free market bidding on government business by Law… It’s also in direct opposition to free trade and free business practices. It’s downright revolting and Congress along with WH should be ashamed of themselves.

  40. #40 Joshua White
    August 30, 2004

    Bill Ware said “Maybe so, but the way Bush is going about it, for every one of these who are killed, ten others arise to take their place.

    Before Iraq was invaded, there were perhaps a half dozen “terrorists” passing through on the way to Iran and Syria. Now there are thousands.

    Better to fight them there than here Bush tells us. Try explaining that to the people involved in the Madrid train bombings.”

    I agree and disagree about more terrorists rising up to take the place of those who get killed. I had mice once. I only saw one at a time and not too much damage so I thought that there were only a few. When we made an effort to find them and get rid of them I discovered that there were actually more than 30. Without the war on terror these terror groups were able to take their time with attacks and plots and they were harder to discover. Now they have a sense of urgency and rush to attack more and communicate their reasons with media more making them more visible. Basically I’m not convinced that there are really many more terrorists than before (thought I’m sure there is somewhat of an increased recruitment drive), they may just be more visible.

    I have trouble connecting Bush to the Madrid bombings like that. To me it’s too much like saying a Police officer is responsible for a revenge killing that took place because of the arrest of a person in organized crime. The revenge attack on Madrid for Spain’s role in the war doesn’t make the war bad. To me at least, it just makes it more obvious what kind of people we are fighting and why we should make them see that terrorism not only does not work, but will get you killed. Otherwise we can expect more Madrids. I have to say that I am in the camp that thinks that Spain’s response to the attack convinced terrorists that they can get away with such tactics.

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