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Government without the consent of the governed?

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted February 4, 2002

Enron gave lots of money to the Republicans who occupy the White House as well as those who sit in Congress. But they played both sides and aided the Democrats as well. The news media has been trying to make the case that there is some scandal here. But time after time these guys go fishing and come up empty-handed. In fact they have had to shift course. Finding that GOP officials did not lift a finger to help Enron, the media and some Democrats are denouncing the Administration for doing nothing.

This is a crazy town. Take so-called campaign reform. Liberal Republicans and Democrats had filed a discharge petition to force a vote on the "reform" bill in the House after the bill went down in flames last year.

Now comes the Enron fiasco. Resignations and finger pointing were still taking place when the media began driving home the message that Enron was another example of why we needed campaign reform. Sure enough, fuzzy-headed liberals, mostly from the Stupid Party, joined on, desperately hoping for a kind word from the New York Times editorial page. I wonder how many of them have ever calculated who in their district cares about the New York Times or the Washington Post or even the Boston Globe. It is no wonder Kevin Phillips years ago branded our government a "Mediaocracy." We are run by the media or the absurdity of what happened this past week would never have taken place.

No use crying over spilled campaign contributions. Speaker Hastert has been forced by Members of his own party into scheduling a vote on so-called campaign finance reform. The essence of the bill would cut off so-called soft money. Issue groups would be prohibited from explaining the voting records of Members of Congress within sixty days of an election. The bill is no doubt unconstitutional, but we won't have that verdict until 2004. The political parties would be prohibited from using soft money for party building and to develop themes and comparisons between themselves and their candidates on issues.

Make no mistake about it: This legislation is about free speech. It is about the freedom to exercise the will of individuals and groups in the political process. If Sen. John McCain, who has pushed this approach unrelentingly following his failed presidential campaign, prevails, and if the U.S. Supreme Court somehow garners the five votes to uphold these ideas so contrary to the framers of our Constitution, then we will have government without the consent of the governed.

That is what is at stake as Speaker Hastert looks at his options. There is another strange little twist to this whole consideration. When you look at what the parties have raised in total dollars, they appear to be very competitive. They are within a couple million of each other. That's good news for Democrats who usually lag way behind the GOP in the number of dollars available for the elections. A closer look, however, reveals that most of the money the Democrats have raised is in soft dollars. By contrast, the vast majority of Republican money is in hard dollars. So does Speaker-wannabe Gephardt and Majority Leader by one Daschle agree to a bill which would apply to this election in 2002 when it would drain away almost all of their money and which would leave the Republicans with a huge monetary advantage?

My guess is that the Democratic leadership will try to get the bill amended to apply to the 2004 election. By then the Democrats would have the chance to straighten themselves around. Yet if they touch the legislation, purists will scream "sell out." The news media will likely join the purists in claiming that special interests are trying to manipulate this bill.

It will be interesting to see who prevails. There is a long shot that the Democratic leadership would put out the word that this bill hurts Democrats and to join quietly with Republicans to defeat it. I don't believe that will happen because the Democrats are too indebted to the interests who have been pushing the bill. If they don't change the date of application, they will be slitting their own throats. My guess is that is what they will try to do is change the date. Republicans should not help them accomplish this. If terrible unconstitutional legislation is what the Democrats want, then the Republicans should give it to them and see what happens.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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