“Campaign Reformers, Drunk on Power”

The Chicago Tribune published today a commentary by Steve Chapman about the recent effort by some U.S. Senators to dismantle the First Amendment.

In the commentary, Chapman observes that the "proposed amendment… would overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limit Congress’ power to regulate the funding of political campaigns. The senators are right about one thing: The ‘reforms’ they envision cannot be reconciled with the Constitution — particularly that passage about free speech and free association. So if their ambitions cannot be reconciled with the 1st Amendment, too bad for the 1st Amendment."

Chapman continues:

"…The amendment would give Congress complete authority to regulate ‘the raising and spending of money, including the setting of limits,’ for any federal campaign.

The most obvious travesty is that the amendment would repeal the 1st Amendment as it relates to campaign finance. This would be the first time in our history that we altered the Constitution to curtail liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.

It would also have the effect, not accidental, of protecting incumbent members of Congress from being unseated at the polls. Whatever else our leaders may try to achieve through campaign-finance laws, you can be sure their paramount objective will be ensuring they stay in office.

Such restrictions are an easy way to accomplish that end in the hallowed guise of fighting corruption. Since they have numerous ways to keep their names in front of voters without spending money, incumbents have little to lose from spending limits. Challengers generally can’t win votes unless they can deliver their message to voters, which requires sums of money that campaign reformers hope to deny them."


The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.