August 28, 2004

Political veteran for censorship

Jacob Sullum notes George W. Bush and John Kerry have at least one thing in common:

Observers dismayed by the bitter partisanship of this presidential campaign should be happy now that George W. Bush and John Kerry finally agree on something: It turns out they both believe in using the government to silence their critics.

Kerry has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) demanding the removal of TV ads that question his Vietnam record. He argues that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT), the group sponsoring the ads, is illegally coordinating its activities with the Bush campaign. The Democrats have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of the group.

Oddly, since Kerry's supporters say SBVT is nothing but a front group for the Republicans, they also demand that Bush "denounce the smear." In response, the president has called for the elimination of all ads sponsored by independent political groups that, like SBVT, are tax-exempt under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Bush pronounced himself amazed that such groups, known as 527s, are still allowed to have their say. "I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill," he told reporters the other day, referring to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which was aimed at preventing freedom of speech from interfering with democracy. "I don't think we ought to have 527s. . . . I think they're bad for the system."