Paul Wellstone on the Evils of Anti-Republican Ads

The debate on campaign finance reform is now out of the hands of politicians and will soon find its way into the courts, but let us pause to remember one Senator’s vision of the horrors that might befall then nation if the Supreme Court should eventually strike down the Senate’s bill.

Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) took to the floor of the Senate during debate over the bill to defend his proposed amendment which would bar advocacy groups that raise “soft money” from buying television ads close to election time. Wellstone and others want to prevent groups like the NAACP, the Christian Coalition, the Sierra Club and others from running ads mentioning specific candidates near election time.

In defending his amendment, Slate’s Mickey Kaus reported that Wellstone exclaimed the “loophole” allowing groups to run ads attacking candidates had to be closed. As Wellstone put it,

If you do not . . . you are going to have a proliferation of these organizations. Republicans for Clean Air, Democrats for Clean Air, People Who Do Not Like Any Party for Clean Air, Liberals for Clean Air, Conservatives for Clean Air, Citizens for Dirty Air — I don’t know what it will be. Another example is the Club for Growth. This was an outfit that ran attack ads against moderate Republican congressional candidates in the primary.

Yikes. Attack ads against moderate Republicans? Thank goodness Wellstone is there to protect the Union from such a travesty. As Kaus said of Wellstone’s fears of nonprofit advocacy groups, “Why is this scenario so scary to Wellstone and others? Sounds like a free country to me.”


Wellstone’s Folly. Mickey Kaus, Slate, April 4, 2002.

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