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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2000 /8 Adar I, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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The campaign
finance reform mirage -- IS IT JUST ME, or has it occurred to anyone else that all this clamoring for campaign finance reform is just a bit Pollyannaish? That it is based on a misguided premise and a false promise? The premise is that the system is corrupt. The promise is that a legal overhaul of the system will fix it.

The lifeblood of campaign finance reform is its promise to end political corruption caused by the "iron triangle of lobbying, money and legislation." If laws can be passed to break up this evil triad then things will be wonderful again.

It is true that in an ideal world, legislators would always vote their consciences rather than being influenced by the policy demands of their largest contributors. But even if you remove money from the system, other conscience-numbing influences will fill the void.

To be sure, the current system is far from perfect and contains some corrupting temptations. But this preoccupation with the system disguises the overarching reality that the primary culprits are people, not the system.

Perfect systems and laws will not eliminate all corruption. Under existing law, foreign contributions are already illegal. But those laws did not prevent Clinton and Gore from soliciting and accepting Chinese monies. When those two were caught red-handed, their defense was that they could not be blamed because flaws in the system made them do it. They were victims. To avoid personal accountability, they created the smoke screen of calling for more laws.

I believe this obsession with reform -- this mindset that more laws will be a panacea for all of our problems -- is symptomatic of our dehumanized culture. Our secularized culture teaches us that we are behaviorally conditioned machines, not independent, free agents responsible for our own choices. If we are not responsible for our actions, we certainly cannot be held to account for them. The framers well understood that men were imperfect, and incorporated checks and balances into our Constitution to minimize corruption. They placed limitations on government to ensure the maximum preservation of our freedoms.

What is the ultimate goal of reformers? According to reformers themselves, their main purpose is not to end corruption, but "to return government to the people."

Well, if popular sovereignty is really the goal of reformers, rather than just another slick-sounding platitude, as I suspect, then why don't they call for real reform by way of a restoration of our founding constitutional principles?

Under the Constitution, the federal government's powers were expressly delineated, and the remainder reserved to the states and to the people. But through the years, Congress, with the aid of the courts, has grossly usurped those reserved powers.

Congress has enacted laws to control the minutest aspects of our lives in ways the framers could not have imagined. The courts have allowed these encroachments under twisted interpretations of the Interstate Commerce clause and otherwise. Such perverted constructions of the Constitution over the years have led to federal intervention in wholly inappropriate areas of our lives, such as education. Our freedom is infringed in direct proportion to the federal government's involvement in these areas. If you returned these powers to the states, incidentally, you'd significantly reduce certain corrupt practices, such as pork-barrel spending. The courts have also initiated their own mischief as well. An example is their fabrication out of whole cloth of a woman's constitutional right to choose an abortion that overrides state laws on the subject. Similarly, various presidents, especially Clinton, have abused their authority and assumed power they didn't have, such as through executive orders.

If the goal of reformers is to restore power to the people, a much more fruitful step would be to elect presidents and congressmen who would honor our founding constitutional principles and the limitations on their respective authority. In turn, they would appoint judges who would adhere to their proper constitutional role of interpreting laws rather than making them.

Campaign finance reform has a hallowed and appealing ring to it but it doesn't address the real problem it is designed to solve. Real reform involves a return to our founding principles where people are sovereign and officials are accountable. To effectuate such reform requires courage and statesmanship, not political pandering.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?