Mike Pence (R – Ind.) Supports Free Speech (March, 2002)

[Author’s Note: I once had the privilege of living in the congressional district of Mike Pence (R-Indiana), one of the few genuine conservatives in the House of Representatives. I wrote this letter to the editor of my local paper in March, 2002, after several letters appeared criticizing Mike for not supporting what would become “McCain-Feingold,” one of the most notorious attempts to smother free speech in American history. It was one of many efforts to “reach across the aisle” and be “bipartisan” that McCain now (2008) boasts about. ]

To the Editor,

There has been considerable criticism of Rep. Mike Pence in the Star Press recently. It seems many people think he should have supported the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance “Reform” bill.  Rep. Pence’s position is based in Constitutional principles. If this bill had a name that really reflects its intent, it would be the “Incumbent Protection Bill.” While parts of the bill are likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court, unless the justices are sleepwalking, other provisions will probably escape scrutiny until they really begin to backfire, as “reform” laws almost always do.

The first part of this bill to get the Court’s attention will be a ban against political advertising that mentions a candidate’s name less than 60 days from a general election, or 30 days before a primary election. If there is a clearer example of a violation of the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech, I haven’t seen it. This bill isn’t “reform,” it’s fraud. No, I’m not a lawyer, but I do read English, and an online law dictionary (http://dictionary.law.com/) has the following definition for the type of fraud that best fits this particular scam:

“Fraud in the inducement: n.-the use of deceit or trick to cause someone to act to his/her disadvantage… The heart of this type of fraud is misleading the other party as to the facts upon which he/she will base his/her decision to act…”

This bill is a good example. Its sponsors claim this bill bans “soft money” (donations from organizations, such as corporations or labor unions), but, the bill shifts the collection of soft money from the national party organizations to the states. The bill is peppered with loopholes, like the one exempting Indian tribes (who might back a candidate likely to help them get, or keep, a casino license on reservation land) from the soft money ban. Are we cynical if we suspect this exception was pushed by an incumbent with reservations in his district?

If members of Congress really wanted to prevent itself from being bought by special interests, they would stop taking their money, and stop making Congress a lifetime job. What lobbyist in his right mind is going to dump millions on a legislator who will be out of office and succeeded by some young Turk before the lobbyist’s favorite legislation can be shepherded through Congress?

In short, if the elected phonies and buffoons making the loudest noise about Shays-Meehan and its evil Senate twin, McCain-Feingold, really wanted to be free of the influence of special interest groups, they’d resign, and go get real jobs in the private sector. All this bill will do is make it even tougher for challengers to dislodge the current crop of parasites from office. If Mike Pence were not a man of principle, if he had thrown his copy of the Constitution in the trash like many of his colleagues, I’m sure he would have supported the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Bill. The reason he hasn’t is that it doesn’t deserve his support, our ours, either. Thanks, Mike, for upholding the Constitution.

Tom Cox

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