Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bi-Partisan Hypocrisy

The U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to put caps on contributions to "527 committees." These are political organizations, such as and the group that ran the "Swift Boat" ads in 2004, whose contributions were unlimited due to a loophole in the McCain/Feingold campaign reform legislation. These unlimited contributions have disproportionately favored Democrats, due to large donations from billionaire George Soros and other wealthy Democratic supporters.

Political hypocrisy is sufficiently common that it should never be shocking. Even so, both Democrats, who mostly tried to kill the bill, and Republicans, who essentially passed it, showed surprising levels of it.

Thus, California Democratic Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, accused Republicans of "trying to muzzle the voices of American people who speak through 527s." Maryland Democrat and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer complained that Republicans were trying to "gag their opponents." Both of these representatives had supported McCain/Feingold. Proponents of McCain/Feingold previously ridiculed the idea that regulating political contributions amounted to regulation of political speech, but the use of terms such as "gag" and "muzzle" indicates that they have conveniently changed their minds. Will they now call for the repeal of McCain/Feingold and other laws regulating political speech?

Meanwhile, Republicans who rightly objected that McCain/Feingold regulated political speech now are supporting contribution limits on such speech via 527 groups. New York Republican Thomas Reynolds cynically managed to say that anyone that supported McCain/Feingold and opposed this bill was "a hypocrite." Perhaps, but hypocrisy seemed to be in wider supply than Rep. Reynolds imagined.

House Majority Leader John Boehner disconcertingly said that this legislation demonstrates that "the Republican Party is the party of reform." If only that were so. Alas, an act of political hypocrisy demonstrates a party of business as usual.

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