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Schlosser for Congress op-ed: Expensive speech

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  • Schlosser for Congress - Communications
    Op-ed column: Expensive speech By David Schlosser, candidate for U.S. Congress Week of 28th June 2006 Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court decided in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2006
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      Op-ed column: Expensive speech

      By David Schlosser, candidate for U.S. Congress

      Week of 28th June 2006



      Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court decided in Randall v. Sorrell that
      Vermont's strict limits on political contributions and expenditures
      unconstitutionally interfered with the First Amendment. The disappointing
      aspect of the ruling is that the court did not go far enough to restore
      Americans' strangely limited free speech rights.



      That right was so important to our country's founders that they included it
      in the first article in the Bill of Rights:



      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
      prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
      or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
      petition the Government for a redress of grievances.



      As a society, we accept the First Amendment does not grant Americans
      unlimited rights to free speech. We commonly note that the First Amendment
      does not protect yelling "fire" in the absence of an actual threat. We're
      currently engaged in a debate over the rights and responsibilities of the
      news media when reporting on intelligence programs that may compromise the
      prevention of terrorist attacks.



      With rare exceptions like those, Americans do not typically accept limits on
      our speech. Unlike many European countries, we do not ban speech that
      society considers offensive or wrong-headed. Racists and historical
      revisionists freely promote their peculiar beliefs, and occasionally make
      news with Ku Klux Klan rallies and demonstrations at the funerals of
      soldiers killed in Iraq. Organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law
      Center and the Anti-Defamation League carefully track and report those
      activities. Counter-protests are emerging as an effective response to
      offensive speech. And well intentioned laws to prevent offensive speech
      make strange bedfellows of the American Civil Liberties Union and groups its
      members consider abhorrent, reminding us of Evelyn Beatrice Hall's summary
      of Voltaire's essay on tolerance: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will
      defend to the death your right to say it."



      Except, strangely enough, when it comes to political speech. Americans
      accept broad, deep limits on political speech in various forms: limits on
      campaign contributions; limits on political expenditures; limits on the
      times, dates, and locations of political speech and advertising; limits on
      the kinds of organizations that can and cannot support candidates in various
      ways and at various times; and on and on. The McCain-Feingold "reforms"
      make it virtually impossible for third parties to speak during the final
      days of a campaign - which is to say, when most citizens actually start
      paying attention to the issues and candidates.



      This is both odd and dangerous because, despite what the political
      correctness police would have you believe, the answer to challenging speech
      is not limiting that speech. The answer is more speech. John Stuart Mill
      observed that free speech is the guarantor of progress. We will never know
      if an unspoken opinion contains an element of truth. And, without having to
      defend one's beliefs from competing or contradictory opinions, those beliefs
      wither. We forget why we ever believed them in the first place, allowing
      weak or wrong arguments to topple them. Mill brilliantly noted that the
      most accepted beliefs are the beliefs that most need challenging, because
      conventional wisdom is the kind most likely to fail when no one understands
      why it became so conventional.



      Philosophy is nice, but in real life, the efforts to limit the role of money
      in politics - which, by the nature of our society, limit free speech - has
      the perverse, unintended consequence of making money the focus of a
      candidate's political life. Running a political campaign is expensive.
      Printing brochures, yard signs, and bumper stickers; paying parade and
      county fair entry fees; recording commercials; buying radio, television,
      newspaper, and Internet advertising; building and maintaining a Web site;
      travel; renting office space and computers. any candidate for major office
      can easily spends tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars a month.
      And yet campaign contribution limits prohibit individuals from donating more
      than a few thousand dollars. Those limits require candidates to recruit
      thousands of people who can donate that sum - a disruptive and potentially
      corrupting practice. So "reformers" take the bizarre next step, which the
      Supreme Court stuck down in Vermont, of limiting the amount of money
      candidates can spend.



      It costs more than a million dollars to run an effective Congressional
      campaign. No matter how many laws we pass requiring it to cost less, it
      still costs more than a million dollars. If it costs more than a million
      dollars, and we make it hard to raise a million dollars, candidates are
      going to spend more time raising money and less time attending to their
      representative responsibilities. And candidates will come up with creative
      ways to motivate people to donate to their campaigns - some as blunt as Rep.
      Duke Cunningham's bribery, some as clever as Rep. Alan Mollohan's funneling
      of public money to agencies that pay him rich fees, some as boring as
      inserting earmarks in spending bills, some as appalling as taxes or laws
      that favor individuals or industries to the detriment of their competitors.



      The simple solution to this problem, ignored by policy makers and judges
      across the country, is to eliminate campaign finance limits and require full
      and immediate disclosure of campaign contributions. Americans are wise
      enough to decide if a candidate funded by a million-dollar donation from the
      gambling industry might have a vested interest in pro-gambling legislation.
      They are also smart enough to judge if a candidate funded by thousands of
      small contributions from individuals in her district might better represent
      her constituents than a candidate funded by one big contribution from a
      distant union. Pressure from opponents and media coverage of political
      contributions - which is non-existent because today's limits make it
      irrelevant - would encourage candidates to avoid the appearance of
      impropriety. And the elimination of contribution limits would put an end to
      the vast money laundering machine that exists solely to spread vast
      quantities of special interest money among dozens of ideologically
      identical, obscurely named front groups that make small donations to hide
      the ultimate source of the money.



      If you want to get money out of politics, there is one and only one way to
      accomplish that goal: eliminate the power of politicians to create laws that
      reward their friends and punish their enemies. But that is a topic for
      another column.



      # # #



      Libertarian candidate for U.S. Congress David Schlosser, 38, lives in
      Flagstaff, Ariz., where he is a public relations manager for a global
      microprocessor company and has been a part-time instructor in the School of
      Communications at Northern Arizona University. He brings nearly a decade of
      political experience to his campaign for Congress, and is a graduate of
      Trinity University and the University of Texas. His wife, Anne, is a
      corporate training and development professional. For more information about
      Schlosser and his campaign for Arizona's First Congressional District, visit
      www.SchlosserForCongress.com <http://www.schlosserforcongress.com/> .



      Authorized and paid for by Schlosser for Congress, Scott Gude, Treasurer





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