Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Thursday, December 11, 2003  

Long before the Supremes ruled on McCain-Feingold, pols and PACs were preparing organizationally and rhetorically. A strategy PACs are pursuing is changing status. The NRA is considering becoming a "media outlet." (Hate the PAC, admire their moxy.)

Rhetorically, the GOP appears to have figured out its play, too. In his dissent, Scalia argued that McCain-Feingold wouldn't keep money out of politics, but just solidify the power of incumbents. Last night on NPR, I heard the same thing from Bob Ney (R-OH), who bitterly denounced the law, echoing Scalia. The same thing is on his website, where he offers this analysis:

The only winners are those few billionaires wealthy enough to fund ballot initiatives, influence elections and buy attack ads against groups such as the NRA and labor unions who are left unable to defend themselves. This law also protects incumbents and wealthy, self-funded candidates because it puts a premium on raising or having money and harms the ability of grassroots organizations to participate in our democracy. Only incumbents are able to hire the lawyers and accountants they need to advise them on how to get around this complicated and draconian law. Regular people will be intimidated and choose not to participate in politics for fear of running afoul of its provisions.

If something about that strikes you as a little off (perhaps you recall headlines of gerrymanders in Pennsylvania, mid-decade redistricting in Colorado and Texas), you're starting to see the GOP's strategy emerge. Having gerrymandered every district down to specific homes (there's also a good article in last week's New Yorker on that), Republicans (generally, although Dems are at fault, too) have narrowed the competitive races in the US to about 30 (for congressional seats).

That's a PR problem for the GOP. So along comes McCain-Feingold, which sort of sucks because it means the GOP is going to have to figure out new ways to get its political payoffs. Ah, but wait!--why not blame the incumbency problem on McCain-Feingold, demonizing a law that sucks for the corrupt, and hiding a an unrelated, but also corrupted process that looks pretty bad.

In the next few days and weeks, the GOP are going to strenuously argue that McCain-Feingold is bad because it restricts "free speech." You have to ask yourself how much sense that makes coming from the party of John "Material Witness" Ashcroft, Dick "Undisclosed Location" Cheney, and George "No Need for an Investigation into Why I Lied My Ass Off to Conduct a Misguided Invasion" Bush. Let's just say that they have not, heretofore, been such enormous free speech advocates. You also might consider why it is that the party in control of both houses of Congress, the presidency, and the majority of statehouses, is so interested in making sure incumbents don't have too much power.

All of that may incline you to think that campaign finance laws ain't so bad. You'd be right.

posted by Jeff | 8:57 AM |
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