Patterico's Pontifications


McCain/Feingold Incumbent Protection Period Has Started

Filed under: Civil Liberties,General — Patterico @ 11:19 am

The other day, Captain Ed commented on the beginning of the unconstitutional McCain/Feingold 60-day moment of silence concerning any defects in our glorious incumbents in elective office. Ed cited this editorial:

Something almost without precedent in America will happen Thursday. That’s the day when McCain-Feingold — aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — will officially silence broadcast advertising that contains criticism of members of Congress seeking re-election in November. Before 2006, American election campaigns traditionally began in earnest after Labor Day. Unless McCain-Feingold is repealed, Labor Day will henceforth mark the point in the campaign when congressional incumbents can sit back and cruise, free of those pesky negative TV and radio spots. It is the most effective incumbent protection act possible, short of abolishing the elections themselves.

Ed added:

Be thankful I can even mention this. It took an FEC action to exempt me and my fellow bloggers from this ban, which does not apply to media outlets. Otherwise, I would have to refrain from telling readers that John McCain, Russ Feingold, Christopher Shays, Marty Meehan, and every politician who voted for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act had passed the worst restriction on free speech since the Sedition Act during World War I. And let’s not forget that George Bush signed the legislation into law and that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of restricting political speech to protect incumbents.

Aw, c’mon, Ed. You can’t really be serious. Do you actually mean to tell me that you would refuse to mention candidates’ names within 60 days of an election? And so you’re grateful for the media exemption our government overlords have (perhaps temporarily) granted us?

To hell with that.

If I want to denounce John McCain on this blog, I will damn well do so — 60 days before an election or not, media exemption or not . . . McCain/Feingold or not.

To prevent me and other bloggers from doing so would be a travesty of historic proportions.

That is why I have repeatedly opposed a media exemption for bloggers, describing such an exemption as “nothing more than asking our masters for permission to speak.” And I have created a Free Speech Pledge that numerous bloggers have signed. Feel free to sign on; the more the merrier.

6 Responses to “McCain/Feingold Incumbent Protection Period Has Started”

  1. I don’t think Ed’s “Be thankful” meant we should actually be appreciative. Probably more like “They tried to get everybody but missed us. Sloppy of them, lucky for us.”

    The rest of your post is spot on.

    Jim C. (85b830)

  2. Hmmm … are you considering accepting 3rd-party blogads criticizing a candidate?

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  3. I don’t know if McCain/Feingold has criminal penalties. But, let’s presume it does. As an L.A. County resident, if I get called for your jury pool, do you want me to tell the judge I can’t in good conscience follow his/her instructions, or should I lie and then nullify?

    I enjoy your blog.

    Joe Hunt (eeb280)

  4. Thanks for the kind words.

    I can’t advise anyone to commit perjury. It’s a good and tough question. The law is clearly unconstitutional. If I were arrested for free speech, it would be an outrage. But I just can’t say you should lie under oath. You shouldn’t.

    Patterico (de0616)

  5. Didn’t Capt Ed get a lot of Canadian traffic after a judge shut down reporting of a Canadian government scandal? A scandal details of which were leaked to him? If bloggers were muzzled like the ‘free’ press, it would be nicely symmetrical if incumbents’ failings were highlighted by some of our northern friends. ‘Gee, I can’t talk about it, but ….’

    Chuck Ritter (357649)

  6. Do I misunderstand McCain-Feingold that severely?

    As I understand it, candidates can blast each other to kingdom come, and do so on broadcast networks; they can’t use soft money for that, but otherwise, they’re OK.

    Under some of the old rules, some people were dodging campaign restrictions by running issue-advocacy ads on the order of: “Congressman Fred kills and eats puppies. We’re against killing and eating puppies. We’re an advocacy group that is really based on issues, and not on getting that other guy, who we won’t mention to avoid the campaign rules, elected. If you agree, call Congressman Fred.”

    And aren’t the restrictions on those ads just on corporate and union money, or money that’s been commingled with that money? Individuals are not barred from doing so; there’s only the $10,000 rule (for disclosure; you can spend your billions), right? You don’t have to get to any media exemption.

    I also think the rule applies to *all candidates* for national office, not just incumbents. Again, if I’m wrong, let me know.

    I’m not saying that the campaign regulations as made are necessarily a good idea, or even that there isn’t a very strong argument for the position that they should have been ruled unconstitutional.

    But I’m saying that I think your post misleads your readers into thinking McCain-Feingold does a lot more than it actually does.



    JRM (5e00de)

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