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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ha ha.

  2. Bithead says:

    As the effects of McCain Feingold become more and more pronounced, the American people, particularly center to right, are starting to understand the damage that John McCain has done. Particularly, McCain himself… no small irony. In McCain Feingold, what we have, is John McCain becoming a willing tool for the left, if an unwitting one. I am forced to remember Mona Charen and her description of such people as “useful idiots”. Thus, his support is even lower in 2008, than it was in 2004.

    And give Will credit as well, when he points out the ‘fitting irony” that McCain’s campaign suffers from the candidate’s own fundamental stupidity… of which McCain Feingold is a merely an indicator.

  3. Diane C. Russell says:

    McCain’s support for restrictions on free speech, and the comments he made about the Constitution and Bill of Rights show that he has lied repeatedly when swearing a solemn oath to protect the Constitution from its enemies. In short, McCain has become one of those enemies.

    Given his record on free speech, his disregard for the rule of law when it comes to immigration, his record of consorting with criminals, and his record of supporting federal government interference in local affairs, I see no reason whatsoever to trust McCain to uphold any of our rights under the Constitution, nor to believe any promises he might make. The man is a liar, dangerous, and a potential autocrat.