Repeal McCain-Feingold

Mark Tapscott makes the case for why “McCain-Feingold was a mistake” in today’s Examiner editorial.

Something almost without precedent in America will happen Thursday. That’s the day when McCain-Feingold — aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — will officially silence broadcast advertising that contains criticism of members of Congress seeking re-election in November. Before 2006, American election campaigns traditionally began in earnest after Labor Day. Unless McCain-Feingold is repealed, Labor Day will henceforth mark the point in the campaign when congressional incumbents can sit back and cruise, free of those pesky negative TV and radio spots. It is the most effective incumbent protection act possible, short of abolishing the elections themselves.


By election day, it should be clear to all reasonable persons that McCain-Feingold was a serious mistake and, like Prohibition, ought to be repealed. But proponents of campaign finance reform have always been right about one thing — there is an incredible amount of money in politics and voters should know who it is coming from and to whom it is going. Thus, McCain-Feingold should not simply be repealed; it ought to be replaced with a new law that uses transparency in campaign finance rather than censorship in political expression.

The sunlight of transparency is the best disinfectant in government and politics, far better than imposing censorship on those who have something to say to their fellow citizens about members of Congress and their records.

Can I get an Amen?

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. madmatt says:

    well is the truth an attack had, can you still hold up a sitting senators vote and say he voted for this and against that etc?

  2. I second that amen.

  3. James Joyner says:

    matt: No. You can’t mention a candidate’s name.

  4. LJD says:

    The truth is in the eyes of the beerholder…

    I heard an ad today on the radio about a candidate that voted against tough child pornography legislation, and what kind of person would support child molestation, etc.

    It was very tasteless, and left me questioning what was the substance of the bill that was voted down. i.e. the candidate may not have voted against safegurading our children, rather the approach that the particular bill took.

    The ad backfired. It made me want to vote for the other guy just because it was so tasteless, and likley untrue.

  5. Richard Gardner says:

    McCain-Feingold has also has some unintended consequences that work against the incumbent. I’m thinking of the “Millionaires’ amendment,” that apparently allows a well-off challenger to loan his/her campaign money (before the primary), but denies that to incumbents. This is played out a couple of days ago in the WA State Senate campaign this year (ironic as the incumbent likewise loaned money to her 2000 campaign, though before the restrictions went into effect).

    This law may end up damaging McCain’s Presidential ambitions.

  6. Kent G. Budge says:

    Amen here.

    This law may end up damaging McCain’s Presidential ambitions.

    Amen to that too.

    I have only one caveat on the transparency approach: I wonder how such a requirement would have played out during the Constitutional ratification debate? Might have cramped Publius’ style …

  7. McGehee says:

    Can I get an Amen?

    Yes, but not within 60 days of the election.

  8. Jim Rose says:


  9. Mark Jaquith says:


    I even swayed and clapped my hands.