10 Jun 1999 Proposed Campaign Finance Law Restricts Citizen Participation in the Electoral Process
New limits on the ability of ordinary Americans, organizations and businesses to participate in political debate are being rushed through Congress. These proposals could hinder public discussion of the voting records and beliefs of political candidates, particularly incumbents.
"There has never been a problem of too little information being available about politicians’ records," said David W. Almasi, director of publications and media relations for The National Center for Public Policy Research, a non-partisan Washington think-tank. "Restrictions on the right of people to even talk about how a candidate voted on a particular issue will be a mortal blow to our First Amendment right to freedom of speech."
The "Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 1999" – commonly referred to as the Shays-Meehan bill – is well-known for its ban on soft money and increased disclosure requirements for campaign donations. Supporters of the bill are circulating a "discharge petition" in an effort to force the bill to the floor of Congress over the objections and scheduling decisions of House Speaker Dennis Hastert and congressional leaders.
Policy organizations are monitoring the Shays-Meehan bill because it would restrict almost any statement regarding the policy positions and votes of a candidate or elected official who is not retiring. As a result, non-partisan advocacy organizations could be at risk of being in violation of the new law for just about anything they may say or write about an incumbent politician.
"Restricting the ability of people to let others know where a politician stands is less a protection of democracy as it is a shield for politicians to cover up their records," said Almasi. "If we truly want to bring fairness to the campaign process, we should instead curb the abuse of absentee ballots and repealing the fraud-ridden motor-voter provision and other known problems."
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation. It publishes the Political Money Monitor, a newsletter highlighting the campaign reform debate in Washington and across America. Comments and inquiries can be sent to [email protected] or by calling (202) 507-6398 x106.