McCain-Feingold at Root of McCain’s Problems
George Will believes John McCain’s championing of a campaign finance which restricts political speech in the run-up to elections is at the heart of the his campaign’s problems.
Often there is tension between “social-issue” conservatives and libertarian conservatives. McCain-Feingold, however, fused these factions in hot opposition. The former felt personally targeted, the latter felt philosophically affronted.
This is certainly true, as far as it goes. Most conservative bloggers hate McCain-Feingold (or, as it’s officially known, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002). I doubt, though, that it’s really on the radar of most primary voters. As important as I think the issue is, it’s rather inside baseball.
Will’s right, though, that McCain-Feingold will have an direct negative impact on his campaign:
McCain has stoutly insisted that the regulation of politics — and especially his restrictions on the quantity, content and timing of campaign speech — does not restrict speech. Does he still think so, given his campaign’s current and probably incurable penury?
Making a virtue of necessity, he said in New Hampshire last week that he henceforth will speak “directly” to the people. Well, yes — without purchasing much broadcasting time. So he will speak to millions fewer people.
There is fitting irony in the fact that if McCain’s campaign continues until the delegate selection process begins, he probably will have to accept federal matching funds and the absurd strings attached to them, stipulating the maximum amounts that can be spent in particular states. That would be condign punishment for the man who has dragged politics — the process by which the state is staffed and controlled — deep into the ambit of the regulatory state.
Further, if he were able to raise large contributions from a few people, rather than being restricted to raising small amounts from a lot of people, he would be able to spend more time talking to voters and less time begging for money.