Would an individual who believes the nation's drug laws are
unconstitutional and should be repealed be appointed to head the
Drug Enforcement Agency?
Would the United States Senate confirm an individual with these
views to be the nation's chief drug law enforcement official?
Then, what in the world is Bradley Smith's name doing pending in
the Senate for confirmation to serve as a Commissioner on the
Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Mr. Smith - who has stated that the nation's campaign finance
laws are unconstitutional and should be repealed - was nominated
by President Clinton to serve on the FEC, the agency responsible
for enforcing the nation's campaign finance laws.
That's the same President Clinton who is a "self-proclaimed"
supporter of campaign finance laws and campaign finance reform.
The Smith nomination was dictated by Senate Republican Majority
Leader Trent Lott and Senator Mitch McConnell, the leading Senate
defenders of the corrupt campaign finance status quo in Washington,
and Smith's two leading advocates for the Commission job.
The President lamely explained his nomination of Smith, a fierce
opponent of campaign finance laws, by saying he was just following
custom to cede to the other major party the ability to name three
of the six FEC Commissioners. In fact, however, when the
Republicans held the White House, President Reagan had no problem
rejecting a FEC nominee of the Democrats that he found to be
So what are the potential consequences of Clinton's campaign
finance betrayal if the Senate proceeds to confirm Smith to serve
on the Commission?
Well, here is what Mr. Smith has said about the nation's
campaign finance laws: "The most sensible reform is a simple
repeal of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA )."
And here is what Mr. Smith's "reform" would accomplish: repeal
of the ban on corporate contributions to presidential and
congressional candidates, repeal of the ban on labor union
contributions to federal candidates, and repeal of the limits on
contributions from individuals and PACs to federal candidates.
Mr. Smith's "reform" would also repeal the system for financing
our presidential elections, the ban on officeholders and candidates
pocketing campaign contributions for their personal use, the ban on
cash contributions of more than $100, and various other provisions
enacted to protect the integrity of our democracy.
Mr. Smith has also stated that the federal campaign finance law,
known as the FECA, is "... profoundly undemocratic and profoundly
at odds with the First Amendment."
Mr. Smith publicly rejects the Supreme Court's corruption
rationale, which has been at the heart of numerous Supreme Court
decisions upholding the constitutionality of campaign finance
contribution limits and prohibitions.
According to Smith, "Money's alleged corrupting effects are far
Mr. Smith's view that the FECA, and its contribution limits and
prohibitions, are unconstitutional directly conflicts with the
Supreme Court's position.
Just last month, for example, the Supreme Court reaffirmed in
Nixon v. Shrink Missouri PAC that individual contribution limits
The Court cited "the prevention of corruption and the appearance
of corruption" as the basis for its decision, the same rationale
that Smith dismisses, and rejected Smith's view that campaign
contributions represent protected free speech.
Justice Souter writing for six of the nine Justices, including
Chief Justice Rehnquist, stated, "Leave the perception of
impropriety unanswered and the cynical assumption that large donors
call the tune could jeopardize the willingness of voters to take
part in democratic governance."
Mr. Smith, it goes without saying, is entitled to hold and
express whatever views and philosophy he may have about campaign
It should also go without saying, however, that the American
people are entitled to have law enforcement officials who believe
in the validity and constitutionality of the laws they are
statutorily responsible for enforcing, and who do not view these
laws with total disdain and hostility.
"The Washington Post" noted in a June 6, 1999 editorial that
Smith's premises "are contrary to the founding premises of the
commission on which he would
serve. He simply does not believe in the federal election law."
The New York Times wrote in a July 13, 1999 editorial that
Smith's stated positions "make plain that his agenda as a
commission member would be a further dismantling of reasonable
campaign limits intended to curb the corrupting influence of big
money rather than serious enforcement of current campaign finance
Mr. Smith is the ultimate symbol of a breakdown in law
enforcement when it comes to the nation's campaign finance laws.
His confirmation to be an FEC Commissioner would be an insult to
the American people.
United States Senators should not allow this to happen.
Wertheimer is the president of Democracy 21.