6/01 Statement Opposing Campaign Finance Laws
By Larry Pratt
Executive Director, Gun Owners of America
Delivered to the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution
June 12, 2001
The proposals before the House, S.27 and H.R. 380, are both fundamentally unconstitutional. The language of the First Amendment is clear: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech….”
The campaign finance law on the books is unconstitutional, and the two bills in question would simply take matters from bad to worse.
The Federal Election Commission has repeatedly harassed Americans who have tried to communicate with the public about the voting record of politicians. The FEC has tried to characterize any mention of a politician’s record as an act coming under its purview. As often as the FEC has filed suits against such exercise of speech, the courts have struck down the FEC’s overreaching grasp. The two bills before you would simply legislate the unconstitutional grasp for the throat of the First Amendment bureaucratically attempted so often by the FEC.
The fact that media corporations are specifically exempted from this attempt to legislate a gag rule shows that even those favoring such throttling of speech understand what they are doing.
Instead of restricting how much can be donated and received, or slightly lessening such present unconstitutional abridgments of speech, Congress should abolish campaign finance laws. The absence of such laws did not prevent the election of such notable Presidents as Washington, Lincoln and Wilson. The presence of these laws has not improved on what the people were able to elect before the laws were on the books.
Abridging free speech in the name of preventing corruption, or the appearance of corruption, is not a constitutionally permitted subterfuge. Limiting receipts and expenditures is itself an evidence of corruption — using the force of law to prevent unknown or unpopular ideas from gaining access to the public arena. A candidate with unorthodox views may be able to raise a lot of money from a few individuals, but by definition, he will likely be precluded from successfully appealing to a large number of small donors. Campaign finance laws represent the cartelization of speech designed to shut out competing views.