The Lonely Centrist

A place for reasoned debate about the issues of the day.

See my complete profile

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Meaning of Campaign Finance Reform: Part II

During last year's North Carolina gubernatorial campaign, the Republican Governor's Association (RGA) began running advertisements that talked about GOP candidate Patrick Ballantine's "solid values" and "a new, positive momentum to help make North Carolina competitive again" that he had allegedly created in his career in the state senate. The ads did not mention that Ballantine was a candidate for governor, but you can't fool North Carolina's bureaucrats. The State Board of Elections ruled that these were campaign ads, and that, being unreported and financed by contributions far in excess of those allowed by North Carolina law, they were illegal. The Board, made up of 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans, voted 5-0 to fine the RGA $196,260.

Meanwhile, at the same time, a group of Democrats called the "State Capital Media Project" ran ads critical of Ballantine's record in the state senate. Well, you might think, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. At least you might think that if you are a naive political rookie. The Board of Elections voted 3-2 that the ads by the State Capital Media Project were not campaign ads. You can probably guess how the partisan votes broke down on the Elections Board, but if not, here's a hint: all 3 Democrats on the Board also contributed to the campaign of Ballantine's Democratic opponent. See the Charlotte Observer, Oct. 23, 2004 (sorry, no current link available).

This is another problem with campaign finance "reform." It is, inevitably, a tool that parties will use to try to harm the other side, and partisan enforcement will always be a problem. That is why the authors of the Bill of Rights sought to prohibit the government from regulating speech, and why the Supreme Court's decisions that allow such regulation (as the cliche goes, what part of "Congress shall make no law" don't they understand) are a travesty, a blight on our Republic, and a betrayal of the Constitution.

It may be worth noting here that Ballantine's campaign was outspent almost 2-1 by his opponent, incumbent Democrat Mike Easley, and that's another problem with these laws - they always seem to favor the incumbent.

On the plus side, a state Administrative Law Judge has ruled that the Elections Board was wrong. On the downside, the Elections Board - at least the Democratic majority - remains defiant and will probably take the matter higher in the court system.

The case is described here.

  • The Skeptic
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Michael Barone
  • The New Republic
  • National Review
  • Democracy Project
  • Bob Bauer
  • Center for Competitive Politics
  • Ryan Sager
  • Going to the Matt
  • Professor Bainbridge
  • Volokh Conspiracy
  • Mystery Pollster
  • Amitai Etzioni
  • Alexander Chrenkoff
  • Middle East Media Research Institute
  • Right Democrat
  • Democrats for Life