Paul Hager for Congress

For more information contact campaign manager R. David Fisher (812-723-4288 office) or the candidate directly (317-510-3198 office).

Campaign finance bill an unconstitutional gimmick

For immediate release: 1-August-1998

(Bloomington, IN) - "The Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill is just an unconstitutional gimmick," says Paul Hager, Libertarian candidate for 8th District U.S. Representative. Hager says that Shays-Meehan, considered the leading bill among a dozen or so similar ones before the House, attacks the 1st amendment of the Constitution and would operate to ration political speech.

"I would really like to hear the supporters of this bill point to the provision in the U.S. Constitution that empowers them to restrict contributions to political parties or regulate advertising," said Hager. "While they are at it, they might also explain how they interpret the phrase 'Congress shall make no law...' at the beginning of the 1st Amendment."

Even without the constitutional objections to Shays-Meehan, as well as existing campaign finance laws, Hager states that government regulation is bad public policy. "Supporters of various campaign financing schemes claim that they want to put an end to money buying elections. But this is absurd. The only thing that money buys is a way for a candidate to communicate with the electorate. At root, regulation of campaign financing implicitly assumes that voters are stupid and can be bought. Beyond that, it has the effect of limiting access to the political marketplace of ideas."

Hager explains. "How much does an idea cost? Who decides this? When contributions are limited, it necessarily limits the number of ideas that can be discussed. It also has the effect of discriminating against new and unconventional ideas. A new idea, by its very nature, needs wide promotion initially, which will cost a considerable amount of money. But, to get this start-up money, a candidate must appeal to tens of thousands of potential contributors, which of course costs a tremendous amount of money. So-called ‘third party’ candidates, whose campaigns are generally based upon ideas that challenge the status quo, are thus confronted with a classic catch-22."

Hager notes that before campaign financing and government regulation, third parties flourished in the United States and had a profound impact on the political system. "Consider that the Progressives and the Socialists in the early part of this century had no trouble putting their ideas before the electorate. Though they won few elections, the Progressives and Socialists were so much of a threat to the established order that the Republicans and Democrats eventually adopted virtually their entire platforms. If the proponents of campaign financing were right, those third parties should have never been successful in pushing their agendas, given the powerful interests arrayed against them."

"In reality," says Hager, "the Republicans and Democrats use campaign finance laws to maintain their joint control over the political process. Battles over so-called 'reform' are really about which party's special interest constituency will do best in the new regulatory environment. At the state level, Republicans and Democrats make ballot access difficult for challengers, further protecting the status quo."

Hager's solution for opening up the electoral process starts with repealing all federal campaign finance laws and abolishing the Federal Election Commission (FEC). He also calls for eliminating all government regulation of digital communication and the internet. "Eventually, this will be the major way people communicate, chiefly because it will be very inexpensive and it will reach virtually everyone. It is absolutely essential that this avenue of communication remains free of government interference."

Hager says that two other reforms are needed at the state level. "The first is to make it easy for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation, to get on the ballot. The second is to use a method called 'approval voting' in selecting candidates. Approval voting allows people to vote for more than one candidate for a given office -- in essence you vote for all candidates you approve of. Then the candidate with the highest vote total wins. Approval voting eliminates the 'wasted vote syndrome' and the perceived need to vote for the 'lesser of two evils' in races where there are more than two candidates."

Hager concludes, "The federal government has no business regulating the political process. The sooner it stops, the sooner we'll have real reform in this country."

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