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Tuesday, March 6, 2007
posted by jason | 1:43 PM | permalink
Romney made two pledges in his CPAC speech: 1. A promise to veto excess spending and 2. A promise to fight for a repeal of McCain-Feingold- two worthy promises. Romney’s promise to fight McCain’s CFR held a special place for myself due to my involvement in state and national level grassroots activism. Being the state director of a grassroots organization the ability to name candidates who we would endorse would prove to be essential.

Due to the current restrictions on not-for profit group’s ability to freely say who they would support, there has been a huge reduction in free speech afforded us who have decided political activism is not just for elected officials and political parties. All groups have the ability to produce voter guides, but are not allowed to make donations to campaigns, neither are they allowed to air adds that mention candidates by name 60 days prior to elections nor are they allowed to actively promote certain candidates.

According to a press release dated March 2 from Romney’s Campaign, Romney has three gripes with CFR which he will make the center piece in his fight to repeal it.
Governor Romney Will Fight To Restore The Free Speech Rights Of The American People. Political speech is at the heart of the First Amendment. The American people must be allowed to advocate for their candidates and their positions without burdensome limitations. For example, McCain-Feingold prohibits some nonprofits from broadcasting messages that mention the name of a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or in the months leading up to the general election. This Free Speech Blackout Period – also called the "electioneering communications ban" – is at odds with a free and open issues debate and should be repealed.

· Governor Romney Believes Grassroots Organizations And Activism Should Be Encouraged, Not Restricted. Grassroots activities are protected by the First Amendment and play a crucial role in elections. Rather than encourage debate on issues of public importance, McCain-Feingold has silenced some of these groups, empowered special interest groups, and protected incumbents in federal office. McCain-Feingold also has opened the door to additional regulation of grassroots organizations, which is exactly the wrong direction.

· Governor Romney Believes That There Must Be More Transparency And Disclosure In Campaign Finance. McCain-Feingold has not accomplished its stated goals of reducing the role of money or special interests in politics. Instead, it has driven money into secret corners and given more power to hidden special interests. Governor Romney believes we must have more transparency and disclosure in the process, rather than more restrictions and censorship of political speech.

I have heard Dennis Prager state that CFR is the reason he could never support McCain. I am not here to say that is the right attitude, clearly McCain is defined by more than just a bad bill that curtails basic first ammendment rights. Yet inasmuch as we cite terrorism as a threat to democracy, so should we recgnize the threat to democracy limitations on free speech in the political arena hold.

The Press release goes on to dicuss the Wisconsin Right to Life Case:
Americans Must Be Able To Safely Exercise First Amendment Rights Without A Team Of Lawyers. In 2004, the group Wisconsin Right to Life wanted to run grassroots radio and television ads urging people in Wisconsin to contact their Senators (which the ads mentioned by name) and ask them to oppose the ongoing filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees. A provision in McCain-Feingold, however, was used to argue that the ads were illegal. A lower court has ruled that the provision is unconstitutional when applied to such grassroots activities and the case is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court in the cases of FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life and McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life. Lawsuits simply should not be required for citizens to advocate a particular political position and participate in the democratic process.

While there has been some luke warm successes of CFR- I would argue that the limited contributions by individuals does show the candidate’s ability to appeal to large groups of people rather than a few rich individuals- the toll it has taken on grassroots free speech far out ways any positive. As the Governor’s plan notes, what was first seen as an attempt to gain more transparancy in the system (a good thing) has in fact led those who need to be brought into the light to darker corners. What we really see is a basic philosophy of conservative thinking at work: The more the government works to do good, the more it does bad. In the end regulation on free speech is only that, regulation.
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