Buchanan Campaign Demonstrates the Results of Public Campaign Financing
by Jerome F. Winzig
Vice President Al Gore and Senator Joe Lieberman have come out in favor of 100 percent public financing of federal elections. Before trying to implement this proposal, however, they should examine the consequences of public financing in presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan.
In an October 1 appearance on Meet the Press, Buchanan boasted, "We have our $12 million" and asserted he was "the representative of a recognized party." He neglected to point out it was the Federal Election Commission that "recognized" him and gave him the money. Two weeks before, on September 14, the FEC announced it had "unanimously approved payment of 12,613,452 million in federal funds for the general election campaign of Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan and his Vice-Presidential running mate Ezola Foster. Following certification of the request for funds, the FEC immediately notified the U.S. Treasury Department, which made the wire transfer to the Buchanan-Foster campaign." How convenient.
Freedom of speech is an essential human right. However, that does not make it right for the federal government to publicize Buchanan's bizarre, sinister, and extremist views while simultaneously imposing campaign finance restrictions on those with opposing views. Our tax dollars are subsidizing the candidacy of a man who says that, if he is elected, he will tell United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "Your UN lease has run out; you will be moving out of the United States, and if you are not gone by year's end, I will send you ten thousand Marines to help you pack your bags."
He would forcibly evict the United Nations even though, under a special agreement with the United States, it's headquarters in New York City is international territory. In fact, the UN headquarters is not leased and is located in New York because, in December 1945 the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives unanimously requested the UN to make its headquarters in the United States.
Buchanan's views on other issues are equally unrestrained. If elected, he says, "we'll bring those troops home from Kosovo and Kuwait and Korea and we will put those troops where they belong, on the borders of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California." While the wisdom of U.S. intervention in other countries is subject to disagreement, it's quite another matter to militarize our border with Mexico.
Mexico comes in for other criticism from Buchanan. He is harshly critical of the proposals for the free trade zone proposed by Vicente Fox, the president-elect of Mexico, for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. He says such cooperation would lead to "one conglomerate called the North American Union." Then, even while talking about the United States' North American neighbors, he excludes them in his language, claiming "that is the end of America."
Some of Buchanan's language seems addressed at militia groups. He asserts that the Ten Commandments should be taught in public schools. Certainly many Americans are concerned about what they see as a moral decline in the United States. But Buchanan, invoking our founding fathers, suggests the appropriate response to laws against teaching religion in public schools should be "Lock and load."
Consistency is not a Buchanan virtue. He says that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should be abolished but then proposes crassly politicizing the IMF, saying, "Cut off all IMF foreign aid loans to any country that belongs to OPEC." He criticizes the kinds of movies Hollywood produces but praises Mel Gibson's bloody movie "The Patriot," defending its glorification of endless violence because the alleged hero's "sons were carrying guns against the British." He denounces free trade by quoting Karl Marx.
Buchanan says the Confederate general Robert E. Lee was "one of the greatest Americans who ever lived in terms of character and courage, one of the most respected men of the 19th century all over the world." He is outraged by the fact that the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is no longer named after General George Armstrong Custer.
Now, Pat Buchanan is entitled to express all of these opinions. But when the Federal Election Commission gives him $12.6 million to espouse those views -- and gives $67.5 million each to the Bush-Chaney and Gore-Lieberman tickets -- then political speech is no longer free. Rather, it is beholden to the whims of the federal government. The dilemma this poses is quite serious. If the government pays for political campaigns, then it -- and not the people -- gets to decide who gets how much publicity.