Will pours water on the arguments of Super PAC critics

George Will‘s latest column addresses the misguided furor over the impact of so-called Super PACs.

Critics of super PACs — critics who were remarkably reticent in 2004 when George Soros was lavishing his own money on liberal advocacy — often refer to them as “outside groups,” much as Southern sheriffs used to denounce civil rights workers as “outside agitators.” Pray tell: Super PACs are outside of what? Is the political process a private club with the parties and candidates controlling membership?

It might be more wholesome for the speech-financing money that is flowing to super PACs to go instead to the parties and candidates’ campaigns. But the very liberals who are horrified by super PACs (other than Barack Obama’s) have celebrated the laws that place unreasonable restrictions on such giving.

All this was predicted 11 years ago by Washington’s pre-eminent campaign lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, in a report (available online at www.conservative.org) with a section titled, “OK, Fine, Let George Soros Replace the DNC” (Democratic National Committee). Writing before the McCain-Feingold speech restrictions were passed, Mitchell presciently said: Pass them and money will still fund political advocacy. It will, however, flow into special committees that, forbidden to coordinate with candidates, will spend money for speech for which candidates cannot be held accountable.

The threshold choice is this. Americans can keep the system they currently have — campaigns financed by voluntary contributions of after-tax dollars from individuals eager to participate in politics by funding the dissemination of political advocacy they favor. Or they can choose government funding of politics. The latter is what many critics of Citizens United want, although they are as sly about their real aim as they are confused about Citizens United.

The one certainty about campaign finance laws is that all of them are, and ever will be, written by incumbent legislators. Were Congress to write laws establishing government financing of campaigns, Congress would be uncharacteristically parsimonious, setting the government funding low enough to handicap challengers to well-known and entrenched incumbents.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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