John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Assault on Free Speech

Posted on January 21, 2010

Assault on Free Speech Overturned




When politicians face too much heat from the people, they try to do things like enact campaign finance reform.

And eventually, the Supreme Court decides that these efforts to keep the people at bay run afoul of the First Amendment.

Several years ago, my former boss, Speaker Denny Hastert, tried to stop moderate Republicans, like Chris Shays and John McCain, from joining with Democrats in passing campaign finance reform.

Hastert was suspicious of the real intentions of the Democrats.  He knew, for example, that many of the so-called good government groups that were pushing for so-called reform, were actually funded by George Soros and his Open Society movement.

Hastert suspected that Soros, who also funded MoveOn.org and several other liberal-leaning Democrat groups, had no intention of taking money out of politics.  He suspected that Soros intended to destroy the political parties to give him much more ability to dominate the political landscape.

Of course, that is exactly what happened.  The political parties, who could no longer solicit soft-money donations from pro-business groups and corporations, became less important in get out the vote operations.  The Republicans didn’t have the money or the ability to build the political operations that Big Labor had (because Big Labor confiscated money from its members to pay for political activities).  Nor did Republicans have the multi-billionaires (like Soros or his friend Steve Bing) to fund similar organizations, like MoveOn.org or Center for American Progress.

So, the Republicans were at a strategic disadvantage because of campaign finance reform, thanks to the Democratic leadership, George Soros, and Republicans who didn’t fully understand what they were doing to themselves.  And, the two biggest proponents of the law, Chris Shays and John McCain, found out the hard way that by destroying their own political party, they were destroying their own campaigns (Shays for re-election to Congress, McCain for the White House).

But, besides the idiocy of Republicans slitting their own throats by supporting a campaign reform bill that was constructed to eliminate the Republican Party, there is the whole principle of the thing.

And that principle, that somehow the government should be put in charge of regulating what you can say about politicians and what you can’t say about politicians, is so fundamentally against the whole concept of free speech that is literally makes my head spin.

Politicians hate to see attack ads that are run against them, just as they give their approval to attack ads that take out their political opponents.  Incumbents especially hate to see outside groups run campaigns against them, because, well, they don’t want to lose their jobs.  That, of course, is a completely natural and human reaction.

But that makes for a dangerous and terrible reason to give those politicians the power to stop those campaigns from running against them.

Tuesday’s election had one clear lesson.  The American people believe that the political class is not listening to them.  But actually, I think the politicians can hear the people just fine, which is why they try to pass laws like campaign finance to keep themselves in power and take power away from those who would oppose them.

I applaud the Supreme Court for sticking up for the Constitution.  It’s about time.