An interesting article from George Will today. Perhaps a second look at Fred Thompson is needed before encouraging him to run for the presidency-
In 1996, Thompson worked successfully, unfortunately, to preserve the (currently collapsing) system of public financing of presidential campaigns. His arguments were replete with all the rhetoric standard among advocates of government regulation of political speech: Government regulation of politics is necessary to dispel "cynicism" about government (has that worked?), to create a "level playing field" and to prevent politics from being "awash with money" (Congressional Record, May 20, 1996).
In a news release that day he warned of money from "special interests" and asserted that the checkoff system "flat out worked" because in 1994, 24 million taxpayers checked the "yes" box on their Form 1040, thereby directing that $3 of their income tax bill go to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. He asserted that "on average, 20 percent of Americans participate in the checkoff." Well.
In 1994, according to the IRS, the checkoff was used on 16.3 million, or 14 percent, of the 114.8 million individual tax returns, so a landslide of 86 percent of forms were filed by taxpayers who rejected participation. Today, use of the checkoff has sunk to just 9.6 percent. Its unpopularity is unsurprising, given that it has allowed a small minority to divert, in a bookkeeping dodge, $1.3 billion of federal revenue to fund the dissemination of political views that many taxpayers disapprove of as much as they disapprove of public funding of politics.
Back then, Thompson believed, implausibly, that voters are "deeply concerned" about campaign finance reform. Today, many likely voters in Republican primaries are deeply concerned about what Thompson and others have done to free speech in the name of "reform," as John McCain is unhappily learning.
I know some folks don't want to hear this, but perhaps Fred Thompson is not as conservative as some people are telling us he is.