The Eagle speaks: The Blue Mountain Eagle thinks the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2002 and which was upheld in February by the Supreme Court of the United States, is flawed legislation that is dangerous to freedom of speech. Agree or disagree? Send your opinion to the paper, regular mail or to email@example.com.
In a capitalist democracy, where the accumulation of wealth is the main measure of success, it's not unreasonable to figure that most of the culture's social power is going to be in the hands of the few.
Money talks, and nowhere is it louder than in politics.
Politicians love money, except when the other guy has more of it. That's when cash becomes the root of all evil and the flow of dollars must be stemmed to avert corruption or the mere appearance of corruption.
That's where election laws start. The basic premise behind most election laws is to curb the influence of money on elections.
Fair enough. In a world where private money controls most of the main sources of information - newspapers, television, radio and much of education - it's good to know that the political powers are at least trying to avoid the appearance of corruption, if not corruption itself. Citizens need to have faith in their political leaders.
Election laws have been around since America's early days, when Thomas Jefferson was warning that an aristocratic government would bring about the end of democracy and freedom, and Abraham Lincoln, the country's 16th president, worried about the influence of corporations on the country's political fiber.
Despite decades of campaign reform, the aristocracy and corporations haven't gone away - our 43rd president is a son in a politically influential family that made its fortune in the oil business - and politicians still have their hands out, and money is still the biggest voice of all.
Trying to stop the influence of money on politicians is like trying to find the end of a circle. It's not going to happen.
Instead, politicians try to stop the influence of money on voters, saying out of the side of their mouths that campaign reform is all about them.
Don't believe it.
The most recent tinkering with election laws, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2002 and which was upheld in February by the Supreme Court of the United States, is a major blow to the First Amendment because it limits free speech directly before an election - when it's most important for citizens to hear a wide variety of viewpoints.
Like all election laws, the BCRA, drafted by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., is a complex piece of legislation, the better to confuse the voters, that puts limitations on political advertising 60 days before an election.
That's OK, said the Supreme Court, because it only limits speech, it doesn't ban it.
We believe it does. The rules that individuals and organizations have to deal with to get their voice heard in the days before an election are severe enough to make the effort too costly, too time consuming and too ridiculous to follow.
That's OK for politicans, because an informed electorate is dangerous to them. A politician would rather have an easily swayed constituency than have a person with a brain in a voting booth.
Continuing the assault on the public's right to an open political process and the free trade of ideas, whatever their veracity, is McCain and Bush's circling the wagons against those "nasty" 527 groups, such as the Vietnam vets against John Kerry, or the MoveOn political action committee that is spending millions to defeat Bush.
The politicians don't like the way these groups are expressing their opinion, so they must be silenced.
Many presidents have tried to quiet opposing viewpoints, and a lot of them have shown a preference for doing the public's business in private, something the BCRA does nothing to change. More transparency in Washington is needed rather than tighter controls on public discourse.
What the BCRA comes down to is the government telling its citizens what speech is appropriate - and when - and how a citizen may spend his political dollar, while doing nothing to stop corruption in high places.
The act will eventually lead to an America where the only point of view citizens will hear is that which is stamped with the government's seal of approval.
And that's when truth will be lost. Truth's passing won't be mourned by most politicans. It's easy to judge a politician's committment to truth by listening to an answer to a direct question.