Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

February 18, 2002

Don't Believe the Hype- "Campaign Finance Reform"
Serves Entrenched Interests

The long-awaited "campaign finance reform" vote finally took place last week, with the House ultimately passing the measure. The debate was full of hypocritical high-minded talk about cleaning up corruption, all by the very politicians of both parties who dole out billions in corporate subsidies and welfare pork. It was quite a spectacle watching the big-spending, perennially-incumbent politicians argue that new laws were needed to protect them from themselves!

"Reform" should mean a change for the better- an improvement over the way things are. In Washington, however, words often represent the opposite of their plain meaning. Can you name one government reform that actually improved anything? How many times has Social Security been reformed? How about public education? Health care? Let's not forget the IRS! In Washington, "reform" always means more spending, more taxes, more regulations, more bureaucrats, and less freedom.

The injury to our Constitution cannot be overstated. Article II authorizes only the regulation of elections, not campaigns, because our Founders knew that government should stay out of the political process. Furthermore, the First amendment clearly prohibits government interference with the expression of political views. Noted constitutional scholar Herb Titus explains exactly how campaign restrictions are government censorship:

"By giving politicians and their appointed bureaucrats the right to decide what the people can say about them in the heat of an election campaign (as the campaign reform bill does with respect to issue advertising in the closing weeks of a campaign), these so-called reformers reject the very idea of a republican form of government, granting to the government 'censorial power over the people,' instead of preserving the censorial power of the people over their government."

Outrageously, the new reform bill virtually outlaws criticism of incumbent politicians for 60 days before an election. Do you think citizens need to know about one prominent New York Senator's plan to confiscate firearms? Any gun rights group that speaks out between Labor Day and the November election- precisely the time when most Americans are becoming informed about the candidates and the issues- will be violating the law. Do you think voters need to know if a senior member of the important House International Relations committee puts his allegiance to the United Nations before that of his own country? An opponent making this point in a commercial during the 60-day period could end up in jail. Do we honestly think this kind of muzzle should be put on the American people?

The corruption inherent in our big-government political system is as repugnant to me as it is to you. Yet none of us should believe for one second that the parties in Washington intend to clean up the system and make themselves less corruptible. In truth, the legislation passed last week will only serve to deny a voice to average Americans, while ensuring the reelection of the fat cats. Name recognition and incumbency are huge advantages in politics. Incumbent politicians benefit when challengers cannot raise or spend the amounts needed to unseat them.

Virtually all of my campaign support comes from individuals, the vast majority of whom give only small amounts. I have never allowed a special interest, corporation, or lobbyist to influence my vote in Congress. Yet Members who voted for last week's reform bill essentially are saying: "Stop us before we succumb to the special interest groups. We just can't control ourselves." They will continue to succumb, of course; they just want you to think otherwise.