The New York Sun has an article about the fifth anniversary of the day President Bush signed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.
Nonetheless, the folks who brought us the bill known colloquially as McCain-Feingold will be taking a wildly undeserved victory lap this week. After all the big promises leading up to the passage of McCain-Feingold, one is tempted to resort to the phrase “moving the goal posts.” But, in truth, the more apt simile would be that the reformers’ arguments are like bumper bowling: So long as they roll the ball in the right direction and manage not to hit anyone in the face, they get to feel good about themselves.
Ryan Sager goes through the claims of the legislation’s advocates (including its champion Fred Thompson) one by one. The bottom line, according to the article, is that
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.