Skip to content

“Belmar Shall Make No Law”

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of  religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging  the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Congress shall make no law…..abridging the freedom of speech. Boy, that’s complicated! Congratulations to the Supreme Court for successfully gleaning the true meaning of such dense, labyrinthine language. Not being a constitutional scholar, nor even having been to law school, I would have thought that Congress could make a law prohibiting it’s citizens from independently running an ad supporting a candidate, or about any issue that might be associated with a candidate, within 60 days of an election. Silly me! Or I might have thought that “freedom of speech” didn’t apply to corporations or unions. Geeze, what a dolt I am!

Anyone for whom English is a first language, or even a second language, knows what those words mean. So why did Congress pass McCain-Feingold, a law so blatantly unconstitutional as to insult our intelligence as American citizens? If you guessed that it is to prevent undue influence by corporations and unions on our politicians I’m sorry, go to the back of the class. This has nothing to do with ethics. It is all about incumbency protection. Those that are already in office enjoy a huge advantage at election time. They have the name recognition and control the levers of power. Challengers typically have to outspend them by a significant  margin to have any chance of ousting them. Placing limits on campaigns helps keep those already in power securely entrenched. Why do you think that Philip Morris Company, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, supports (unconstitutional) laws that prohibit cigarette advertising? If you guessed that it to prevent children from wanting to smoke, sorry, go to the back of the class again. Marlboro is the incumbent of the cigarette industry. No advertising means no upstart cigarette makers can grab market share from them. It’s the exact same principle as McCain-Feingold.

Belmar’s campaign contribution disclosure law has a similar effect. It increases the power of incumbency. By requiring even small political contributions to be made public, anyone who may have any kind of business before the town is made afraid to contribute to challengers for fear of being treated unfairly. Business owners fear being harassed. And as the town becomes ever more involved in planning it’s own development, with the entailing  interference with property rights, the law becomes ever more onerous. More and more people perceive to have an interest in not offending the town’s public officials. It is also a direct invasion of privacy rights. No one can look to see if there is a conflict of interest in who you voted for. You have a right to vote in secrecy. The same principle gives you the right to secrecy when you support a candidate in other ways. Only total contribution amounts from a single source that are large enough that they could possibly be a bribe, say, $500 or more, should be made public.  

Instead of giving our politicians more and more power, and then writing complicated and often unconstitutional laws in an attempt to prevent them from selling it, we should just stop handing them them so much of it. It is this town’s enthusiasm for doing stuff and buying things that creates all the potential conflicts of interest in the first place. And if someone has influence for sale, and someone else wants to buy it, they will figure out a way. They will get around any law designed to hamper them. Like gun control laws, this only affects the legitimate people. Crooks pay cash.

All these laws do is protect the status quo. If we don’t want our money to be stolen, we shouldn’t send so much of it to Washington, Trenton, Freehold or Belmar. Government at all levels needs to return to it’s proper role. Power needs to returned to it’s rightful owner, the individual. That is the only “ethics reform” that’s guaranteed to work.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.