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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Brad Smith to Trevor Potter: It's the Volunteers, Not the Special Interest Big Wigs That Lose at FEC

Departing FEC Commissioner Brad Smith - the guy who deserves a freedom medal for exposing his panel's plans to regulate Internet political speech - has a letter in the latest issue of Roll Call replying to Trevor Potter's assertion that campaign finance regulations are worthwhile no matter the inconvenience they create or what they cost in lawyers fees. Unfortunately, Roll Call requires you to be a subscriber to read its coverage of the issue.

But former FEC staffer Allyson Hayward has the full text of the Smith letter on her new blog, Skeptics Eye. Here's Smith's major point:

“'Corporate leaders' have the financial resources to hire high-priced lawyers, accountants, managers and consultants. The volunteer activists who chair most local political party committees around the country do not.
"Patent laws are written to enhance the value of discoveries, not to limit inventors’ activities, and most biologists have the support of large research universities or corporations to handle legal issues.
"The typical campaign volunteer does not have such resources, and would not volunteer if he or she believed it would be necessary to hire a lawyer."

Put another way, campaign finance regulations are likely to decrease volunteer participation in the political process, thus making it easier for moneyed special interests to influence the outcomes of elections and the public policy process. Government action typically creates consequences that are opposite the intended effect of a new program or regulation.

You can read the entire Smith letter here. And don't miss Democracy Project's super analysis of Smith's significance.