June 2, 2010

JACOB SULLUM: ENABLING CORRUPTION.

In a 1996 law review article, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan warned that campaign finance laws “easily can serve as incumbent-protection devices, insulating current officeholders from challenge and criticism.” The DISCLOSE Act, a speech-squelching bill supported by the man who nominated Kagan, is a good example.

President Obama and congressional Democrats say the DISCLOSE Act, which is expected to come up for a vote soon, is aimed at ensuring transparency and preventing corruption in the wake of Citizens United v. FEC, the January decision in which the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on political speech by corporations and unions. But the bill’s onerous, lopsided requirements suggest its supporters are more interested in silencing their critics. . . . Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) said he wants people to worry about a fine or prison sentence when they dare to speak ill of him.

“I hope it chills out all—not one side, all sides!” said Capuano. “I have no problem whatsoever keeping everybody out. If I could keep all outside entities out, I would.”

Hacks don’t like criticism. But they should be careful. They’ll like tar and feathers even less, and that’s what you get when you make criticism illegal.

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