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September 5, 2006
Blackout Days

We are now 60 days from the midterm elections, a key date for anyone hoping to exercise free political speech in the world's first free and democratic republic. America has entered the John McCain-Russ Feingold blackout period, where the federal government must enforce a ban on any third-party political advertising that has the temerity to mention incumbent politicians by name:

Something almost without precedent in America will happen Thursday. That’s the day when McCain-Feingold — aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — will officially silence broadcast advertising that contains criticism of members of Congress seeking re-election in November. Before 2006, American election campaigns traditionally began in earnest after Labor Day. Unless McCain-Feingold is repealed, Labor Day will henceforth mark the point in the campaign when congressional incumbents can sit back and cruise, free of those pesky negative TV and radio spots. It is the most effective incumbent protection act possible, short of abolishing the elections themselves.

How can this possibly be, you ask? McCain-Feingold — named after the law’s main advocates, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis. — bans all broadcast political advocacy advertising that mentions candidates by name, beginning 60 days before the election. President Bush signed and the U.S. Supreme Court shockingly upheld McCain-Feingold three years ago. Earlier this week, the Federal Election Commission, decided against allowing an exemption to the ban that would have allowed some highly restricted advocacy ads by groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.

Be thankful I can even mention this. It took an FEC action to exempt me and my fellow bloggers from this ban, which does not apply to media outlets. Otherwise, I would have to refrain from telling readers that John McCain, Russ Feingold, Christopher Shays, Marty Meehan, and every politician who voted for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act had passed the worst restriction on free speech since the Sedition Act during World War I. And let's not forget that George Bush signed the legislation into law and that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of restricting political speech to protect incumbents.

If you feel just a little less free today, this is the reason why.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 5, 2006 6:09 PM

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