Four years after House Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, the GOP of 2006 is on the verge of reversing course and enacting new rules restricting free speech for political campaigns.
House Majority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio), who disappointed conservatives last month on spending, is about to take strike two. Boehner is leading the charge for strict new rules on 527s, the political committees that became popular in 2004.
The House is set to vote tomorrow on legislation (H.R. 513) that would cripple not only liberal 527s (run by MoveOn.org and EMILY’s List among others) but also those run by conservatives (including the Club for Growth and Progress for America).
Last week House Republicans, led by Chief Deputy Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R.-Va.), made their case for the tougher restrictions. During a conference call with bloggers, including HUMAN EVENTS, Rep. Tom Cole (R.-Okla.), who has a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 92%, accused Democrats of hypocrisy for opposing the 527 limits.
“I was not a particularly huge fan of the McCain-Feingold reforms, but having passed them, we ought to be applying them across the board,” Cole said. “We’re going to see a lot of people in this debate who voted for those limitations vote against the limitations and regulations on 527. And I would submit to you that is an incredibly hypocritical stand.”
“If people voted for McCain-Feingold,” Cole continued, “they ought to be voting to limit 527s. And if they don’t, the inconsistency in that is breathtaking and it’s political hypocrisy at its worst.”
What Cole should do is stand with the likes of Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) and tell his new majority leader that Republicans can do better than the 527 Reform Act. Boehner and his Republican colleagues complain that they want more disclosure, but their plan would actually shift donations to 501(c)4 organizations, which are even less accountable.
Blogger Tim Chapman of Townhall.com rightly questioned Cole’s argument and asked why, as a conservative, he wouldn’t support fewer restrictions rather than more. Cole defended himself, saying he was a supporter of the 527 Fairness Act, sponsored by Pence and Rep. Albert Wynn (D.-Md.).
“This is giving the forces on the left an enormous advantage over us,” Cole said of the money flowing to 527s. “You play with the hand you’re dealt, and I think we’ve been dealt a difficult hand. But I think the right thing to do is extend the same limitations we have for individuals to 527s.”
Cole added: “I think we have a system right now that is disproportionately advantageous to Democrats.”
That’s no reason to enact legislation.
The trouble is, Republicans are led by a President who signed McCain-Feingold, and who then attacked the very 527 that helped him win re-election in 2004 — the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth.
Efforts to derail H.R. 513 appear dim despite the opposition on the right and left. For conservatives who value free speech in political campaigns, show your support for groups such as the Club for Growth — which has made few friends in the GOP by backing conservatives — by contacting members of Congress today.
And for complete blow-by-blow coverage of the 527 debate, stay tuned to Chapman’s blog on Townhall.com and the Club for Growth’s blog. You’ll also want to keep tabs on Pence’s blog at the Republican Study Committee. As a darling of conservatives, he’s a role model Republicans should aspire to be, especially on this issue.