Air America, Soros and McCain-Feingold

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The Washington Times publishes a superb op—ed today by John R. Lott Jr. and Bradley A Smith on Air America and the absolute mess that Senators McCain and Feingold and the US Supreme Court have foisted upon our democratic republic.

The starting point is the question of whether or not Air America amounts to a disguised illegal campaign contribution on the part of its welathy leftist backers.

When is a campaign donation not a campaign donation? Apparently if you spend the money to run a radio program instead of paying for campaign ads that run on that same program. Just look at Air America. With $41 million in losses since 2004, and $9.8 million owed just to Robert Glaser, RealNetworks chairman, Democrats who bankrolled this "company" weren't so much investors as campaign contributors. The losses are seen as simple business ineptitude,but Air America effectively, and perhaps intentionally, cleverly avoided the campaign finance limits which Democrats had worked so hard to pass. [....]

It's hardly a coincidence that Air America debuted in time for the 2004 presidential campaign or that the bankruptcy filing was put off long enough so that creditors actions won't stop broadcasts before the Nov. 7 election. As if the willingness to lose money weren't already obvious, over a year ago the network started asking listeners to donate money to keep the programs on the air.

The real story, however, is not the hypocriy and calumny of the left, but rather the impossible mess which has been created.

As Justice Anthony Scalia noted during the oral arguments on McCain—Feingold's constitutionality: "if history teaches us anything, [it] is that when you plug one means of expression, the money will go to whatever means of expression are left." One such means is the press: broadcast stations, magazines and newspapers are exempt from the law.

But the term "news media" is difficult to define. When McCain—Feingold first passed in 2002, the National Rifle Association generated outrage when it talked about buying a TV station, so that like other media, it could mention a candidate's name during the 60 days before the general election. Sen. John Kerry demanded that the Federal Election Commission block any attempt by the NRA to get a media exemption, stating, "We urge you to prevent the NRA from hijacking America's airwaves with the gun lobby's money." There is no record of Mr. Kerry objecting to Air America's expenditures.

It gets much worse. We now stand on the brink of regulation of news and commentary, if it becomes clasified as an "in—kind campaign contribution" when media figures support one candidate or position on a ballot issue, as is already being alleged in Seattle.

McCain Feingold is a travesty, and the Supreme Court disgraced itself when it upheld the law. Sen. John McCain, a decent and patriotic man, owes it to the country to repudiate his handiwork and actively campiagn for its repeal. I hold less esteem for Sen. Feingold, one of the most left wing members of the Senate, but he, too, should take a look at what he has wrought and repent.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky

Thomas Lifson   10 26 06

The Washington Times publishes a superb op—ed today by John R. Lott Jr. and Bradley A Smith on Air America and the absolute mess that Senators McCain and Feingold and the US Supreme Court have foisted upon our democratic republic.

The starting point is the question of whether or not Air America amounts to a disguised illegal campaign contribution on the part of its welathy leftist backers.

When is a campaign donation not a campaign donation? Apparently if you spend the money to run a radio program instead of paying for campaign ads that run on that same program. Just look at Air America. With $41 million in losses since 2004, and $9.8 million owed just to Robert Glaser, RealNetworks chairman, Democrats who bankrolled this "company" weren't so much investors as campaign contributors. The losses are seen as simple business ineptitude,but Air America effectively, and perhaps intentionally, cleverly avoided the campaign finance limits which Democrats had worked so hard to pass. [....]

It's hardly a coincidence that Air America debuted in time for the 2004 presidential campaign or that the bankruptcy filing was put off long enough so that creditors actions won't stop broadcasts before the Nov. 7 election. As if the willingness to lose money weren't already obvious, over a year ago the network started asking listeners to donate money to keep the programs on the air.

The real story, however, is not the hypocriy and calumny of the left, but rather the impossible mess which has been created.

As Justice Anthony Scalia noted during the oral arguments on McCain—Feingold's constitutionality: "if history teaches us anything, [it] is that when you plug one means of expression, the money will go to whatever means of expression are left." One such means is the press: broadcast stations, magazines and newspapers are exempt from the law.

But the term "news media" is difficult to define. When McCain—Feingold first passed in 2002, the National Rifle Association generated outrage when it talked about buying a TV station, so that like other media, it could mention a candidate's name during the 60 days before the general election. Sen. John Kerry demanded that the Federal Election Commission block any attempt by the NRA to get a media exemption, stating, "We urge you to prevent the NRA from hijacking America's airwaves with the gun lobby's money." There is no record of Mr. Kerry objecting to Air America's expenditures.

It gets much worse. We now stand on the brink of regulation of news and commentary, if it becomes clasified as an "in—kind campaign contribution" when media figures support one candidate or position on a ballot issue, as is already being alleged in Seattle.

McCain Feingold is a travesty, and the Supreme Court disgraced itself when it upheld the law. Sen. John McCain, a decent and patriotic man, owes it to the country to repudiate his handiwork and actively campiagn for its repeal. I hold less esteem for Sen. Feingold, one of the most left wing members of the Senate, but he, too, should take a look at what he has wrought and repent.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky

Thomas Lifson   10 26 06