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McCain-Feingold: Five years old and still not potty-trained

March 28, 2007 |  2:02 pm

"Five years ago today, President Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. Today, American politics is so clean you could eat off it," says Ryan Sager in the New York Sun. That second sentence is sarcasm, dontcha know, and Sager rattles off the many ways the McCain-Feingold law, as it is popularly known, has either failed in its goal of cleaning up politics or succeeded in its goal of moving the political process further away from the citizenry.

Mccainandfeingold The results so far: There is no evidence political corruption has been decreasing; major party candidates are on track to break all first-quarter fundraising records next month; incumbent-reelection rates—even in the face of last November's Democratic surge—remain well over 90% in the House and nearly 80% in the Senate; and the 2002 law has been used to punish small participants in the political process, not help them. I'll live the closing argument to Sager:

Last but not least—and here we get to the real nub of campaign-finance regulation—McCain-Feingold supporters promised that the bill would curb the scourge of "negative" and "dirty" advertising. "It is about slowing political advertising," Ms. Cantwell said during the debate. "Making sure the flow of negative ads by outside interest groups does not continue to permeate the airwaves."

Of course, curbing and "slowing" speech critical of politicians by "outside interest groups" (a.k.a. "citizens") is in no way a permissible goal under the First Amendment. But, ultimately, the politicians may have failed in this most nefarious goal. And it's not just the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who showed the way around it.

While the Supreme Court has so far upheld the patently anti-Constitutional ban on advertising by citizens' groups 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election, the rise of Internet politics may eventually supercede this atrocity. Witness the anti-Hillary Clinton "1984" ad that caused such a stir on YouTube just last week. Such ads, cheaper than dirt (it costs money to distribute dirt, YouTube's free), will only be more important with every election cycle.

For this reason, look for Congress to start taking an interest in "unregulated" Internet speech any day now. Money has never been the issue. Cleansing our speech of impure thoughts about politicians is the real agenda.

Courtesy of Brian Doherty.

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