June 25th, 1998
Dear Mr. Lewis:
Knowing of your interest in the impact the media have on elections through editorial privilege, I wanted to send you a copy of a letter I have sent to my colleagues in the House of Representatives on this issue.
Thank you for keeping me aware of your interests and cocerns.
Ann M. Northup
Member of Congress
Several of the proposals for campaign finance reform include regulations or even limitations on issues advocacy. The Hutchison bill (H.R. 2183) requires disclosure of issue ads, while the Shays-Meehan bill (H.R. 3526) completely redefines issue advocacy as express advocacy and applies federal limits, prohibitions and disclosure requirements.
What these bills fail to recognize is that issue advocacy is conducted in the form of endorsements and opinion pieces by editorial boards across this country on a regular basis. In fact, a recent survey *found that 61 percent of American adults think newspapers should not endorse candidates for political office. An earlier survey found that Americans want to restrict newspaper coverage of political campaigns as much as they want to restrict campaign contributions. The survey found that Americans think reporters and editorial writers have a bigger impact on elections than campaign contributions.
I this is true, why don't the "reform" bills address this form of issue and advocacy? They don't because it is so blatant a breach of First Amendment rights.
The fact is Congress can no more dictate how a group of citizens can participate in our democracy than we can limit newspapers, television or radio stations or magazines. By limiting what other groups can say about us as candidates, we are encroaching on their freedoms and increasing the overall impact the press can have on elections. One need only look at the editorial page of the newspaper in my own district to Considering the circulation of one newspaper, the market of one television network, the broadcast capability of one radio station, the ability of the media to convey a message and impact an election is enormous. Limiting the First Amendment rights of a portion of the population while protecting those of the media is dangerous.
In Congress, we have an obligation to protect our democracy. This is not about headlines and winning the public relations war. It's about the system of government we will leave to our children.
Oppose legislation that assaults the Constitution. Oppose Hutchison. Oppose Shays-Meehan.
* Rasmussen Research