Topic: Politics

Eighteen GOP Representatives
(April 2006)

The Scoreboard thanks columnist George Will for his recent column calling attention to a sterling example of that rarest of occurrences in Washington, D.C., principle in politics. Eighteen Republican House members (out of 229) actually voted against their party’s own self-interest because a bill violated principles that Republicans claim to hold dear.

The votes involved an attempt by House Republicans to hamstring the so-called “527” groups that were so vocal during the 2004 election. These non-profit political groups received much of the so called “soft money” for issue advocacy forbidden to the political parties under the provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign financing reform. At the time McCain-Feingold was passed, conservative Republicans complained to the heavens that it was an infringement on free speech. But because the Democrats made more effective use of the “527” group loop-hole than the GOP, the House Republicans decided that big private contributions to fund media ads on hot-button issues weren’t worth protecting on free speech grounds when they might mean curtains for the Republican majority.

Cynical, hypocritical, and transparent are some of the adjectives that come to mind when considering the bill passed by the GOP majority on April 5, which severely limited the amounts that could be contributed by citizens to fund “527” political speech. (Equally hypocritical, of course, were the Democrats who opposed the bill, most of whom had argued fervently for “soft money” restrictions when rich Republicans were writing the checks.) But eighteen Republican representatives bucked their party’s tactical move, believing that access to the airwaves to make political arguments was a right worth protecting, even if it meant some of those arguments might persuade Americans to vote for Democrats. They voted against the measure, taking the ethically consistent position that if the restriction of political contributions was an objectionable infringement of free speech when it benefited Democrats, it was just as much of an infringement when it benefited Republicans. The eighteen principled GOP Representatives’ names are Roscoe Bartlett (Maryland), Chris Chocola (Indiana), Jeff Flake (Arizona), Vito Fossella (New York), Trent Franks (Arizona), Scott Garrett (New Jersey), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Ernest Istook (Oklahoma), Walter Jones (North Carolina), Steve King (Iowa), Connie Mack (Florida), Cathy McMorris (Washington), Randy Neugebauer (Texas), Ron Paul (Texas), Mike Pence (Indiana), John Shadegg (Arizona) and Lynn Westmoreland (Georgia).

Ethics Heroes all.

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