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Unfree Speech:
The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform
Bradley A. Smith
With a new preface by the author

Paperback | 2003 | $37.50 / £26.95 | ISBN: 9780691113692
320 pp. | 6 x 9
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400824717 |
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At a time when campaign finance reform is widely viewed as synonymous with cleaning up Washington and promoting political equality, Bradley Smith, a nationally recognized expert on campaign finance reform, argues that all restriction on campaign giving should be eliminated. In Unfree Speech, he presents a bold, convincing argument for the repeal of laws that regulate political spending and contributions, contending that they violate the right to free speech and ultimately diminish citizens' power.

Smith demonstrates that these laws, which often force ordinary people making modest contributions of cash or labor to register with the Federal Election Commission or various state agencies, fail to accomplish their stated objectives. In fact, they have worked to entrench incumbents in office, deaden campaign discourse, burden grassroots political activity with needless regulation, and distance Americans from an increasingly professional, detached political class. Rather than attempting to plug "loopholes" in campaign finance law or instituting taxpayer-financed campaigns, Smith proposes a return to core First Amendment values of free speech and an unfettered right to engage in political activity.

Smith finds that campaign contributions have little corrupting effect on the legislature and shows that an unrestrained system of contributions and spending actually enhances equality. More money, not less, is needed in the political system, Smith concludes. Unfree Speech draws upon constitutional law and historical research to explain why campaign finance regulation is doomed and to illustrate the potentially drastic costs of efforts to make it succeed. Whatever one thinks about the impact of money on electoral politics, no one should take a final stand without reading Smith's controversial and important arguments.

Review:

"Surely will be this year's most important book on governance."--George Will, Washington Post

"A sustained defense of free speech against those who would burden it with rules that run counter to the intentions of the founders . . . A stirring defense of First Amendment against the depredations of the reformers."--Ira Stoll, Wall Street Journal

"A much needed does of realism which has relevance far beyond America. He challenges the prevailing assumption that political problems may usually be remedied by ever larger doses of public subsidy and rules. . . . Even those who disagree with Bradley Smith's political stance will do well to remember his powerful arguments that the legislative cures for the ills of campaign and party financing are sometimes worse that the disease."--Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, Times Literary Supplement

"A must-read for anyone wanting to make sense of the campaign-finance debate."--Kathryn Jean-Lopez, National Review

"Enlightening and entertaining . . . To say the least, there are many who will disagree with Smith's findings and conclusions. But this is a marvelous contrarian view: moderate in tone, elegant in language, clever in argument."--Publishers Weekly

"Smith is ultimately a First Amendment absolutist, urging that any limitation on campaign contributions restricts free speech. Both opponents and supporters of McCain-Feingold should spend some time with this thoughtful study."--Booklist

"A timely read . . . One by one, [Smith] dismantles the girders on which campaign-finanace reform now stands."--The Washington Times

"Smith's presence on the FEC drives advocates of campaign finance reform to distraction and Unfree Speech makes quite clear why. . . . For Smith, it is vital to keep in mind what is at stake, which is freedom of speech itself. The constitutional issues cannot be swept aside."--Daniel J. Silver, The Weekly Standard

More reviews

Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Chapter 1: Introduction 3
PART I: THE COST OF CAMPAIGNS AND THE PRICE OF REFORM
Chapter 2: Money Talks: A Short History of Campaign Spending, Regulation, and Reform 17
Chapter 3: Faulty Assumptions of Campaign Finance Reform 39
Chapter 4: The Folly of Reform: Consequences of Campaign Finance Regulation 65
Chapter 5: Some Problems with the Solution of Government Financing 88
PART II: CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS
Chapter 6: Money and Speech 109
Chapter 7: Money and Corruption 122
Chapter 8: Money and Equality 137
PART III: REAL AND IMAGINED REFORM OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE
Chapter 9: Unfree Speech: The Future of Regulatory ''Reform'' 169
Chapter 10: Real Equality, Real Corruption, Real Reform 201
Notes 229
Bibliography 259
Index 279

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