Wednesday, August 02, 2006

In No Hurry For Ethics

Yesterday we released the responses we've received from candidates for state office to the ethics survey the Democracy Campaign, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and Common Cause in Wisconsin sent them three weeks ago. Two of the three candidates for governor – Democratic Governor Jim Doyle and Green Party nominee Nelson Eisman – answered the questionnaire. Republican Mark Green didn't bother.

Green's campaign manager, Mark Graul, denies the congressman is ducking the questions. He says Green is a busy man and just didn't have time.

Graul went on to tip Green's hand on the reform issues covered in our questionnaire. He said Green opposes public financing of campaigns and doubts the constitutionality of requiring sponsors of so-called "issue ads" to disclose how the messages were paid for.

Green apparently has already forgotten the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in McConnell v. FEC that left no doubt about the constitutionality of regulating issue ads and the soft money used to finance them.

In the majority opinion written by Justices John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O'Connor with Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer concurring, little was left to the imagination. "The proliferation of sham issue ads has driven the soft-money explosion.... The evidence connects soft money to manipulations of the legislative calendar, leading to Congress' failure to enact, among other things, generic drug legislation, tort reform, and tobacco legislation...."

The court majority also ruled that "...corporate, union, and wealthy individual donors have been free to contribute substantial sums of soft money to the national parties, which the parties can spend for the specific purpose of influencing a particular candidate's federal election. It is not only plausible, but likely, that candidates would feel grateful for such donations and that donors would seek to exploit that gratitude." And then this: "The idea that large contributions to a national party can corrupt or, at the very least, create the appearance of corruption of federal candidates and officeholders is neither novel nor implausible."

And then the justices stuck a stake through the heart of the 1976 legal precedent established in Buckley v. Valeo that had previously prevented regulation of this kind of activity. "The unmistakable lesson from the record in this litigation, as all three judges on the District Court agreed, is that Buckley's magic-words requirement is functionally meaningless.... Buckley's express advocacy line, in short, has not aided the legislative effort to combat real or apparent corruption, and Congress enacted (McCain-Feingold) to correct the flaws it found in the existing system."

Mark Green better rethink his use of the Constitution to oppose reform. He doesn't have a leg to stand on.

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