Sunday, October 01, 2006

Speechless in Seattle

George Will highlights Washington's censoring speech by court order in Newsweek. He is not covering the State Public Disclosure Commission's announcement Thursday that the wrong people are financing campaigns. See Interest groups have taken over elections, panel fears. They are just warming up; watch them. No. He is talking about the successful efforts last year by several cities to shut up talk radio hosts when they threaten tax revenues. Successful? Yes. After the judge ruled that their speech counted as capaign contributions John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur were able to keep talking because I-912 was an issue, not a candidate. There is no spending limit for issues (Will says there is during the last 3 weeks), but there is for candidates. So talk-show hosts are prevented from enthusiastically covering a candidate like Carlson and Wilbur did I-912. And he certainly slowed them down; a court order against one tends to cause caution. Will:
SEATTLE—As the comprehensive and sustained attack on Americans' freedom of political speech intensifies, this city has become a battleground. Campaign-finance "reformers," who advocate ever-increasing government regulation of the quantity, timing and content of political speech, always argue that they want to regulate "only" money, which, they say, leaves speech unaffected. But here they argue that political speech is money, and hence must be regulated. By demanding that the speech of two talk-radio hosts be monetized and strictly limited, reformers reveal the next stage in their stealthy repeal of the First Amendment.
This is the America produced by "reformers" led by John McCain. The U.S. Supreme Court, in affirming the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold speech restrictions, advocated deference toward elected officials when they write laws regulating speech about elected officials and their deeds. This turned the First Amendment from the foundation of robust politics into a constitutional trifle to be "balanced" against competing considerations—combating the "appearance of corruption," or elevating political discourse or something. As a result, attempts to use campaign regulations to silence opponents are becoming a routine part of vicious political combat.

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