Should Tom Paine Have Filed with the FEC?
Alexander, Lamar, The World and I
Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense, was lucky that King George wasn't running for reelection in 1776. Common Sense was more than a rallying cry for independence for the American colonies; it attacked the ruling monarch in the most personal terms.
The king, Paine wrote, "hath wickedly broken through every moral and human obligation, trampled nature and conscience beneath his feet; and by steady and constitutional spirit of insolence and cruelty, procured for himself universal hatred."
If today's campaign-finance "reformers" had been around in 1776, they would have declared Common Sense "express advocacy"--a form of political speech that can be subject to government control. To print his pamphlet, Paine and his fellow supporters of independence would have had to form a political action committee--called, let us say, People for the Overthrow of the Mad King. They would have been required to file the requisite forms, restrict their contributions, and even add a disclaimer. Under some versions of reforms being proposed now, they would have been required to give King George equal time.
The rage to "reform" political campaigns comes and goes with the frequency and ferocity of E1 Nino. Every couple decades or so, it seems, a hot-air front of self-designated "reformers," editorial page editors, and Sunday morning talk show pundits gather force to complain about the corrupting influence of money in campaigns and the nefarious effects of what they like to …
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Publication information: Article title: Should Tom Paine Have Filed with the FEC?. Contributors: Alexander, Lamar - Author. Magazine title: The World and I. Volume: 13. Issue: 5 Publication date: May 1998. Page number: 62+. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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