Campaign Finance Reform. Or, as I like to call it: shut up.

Warner Todd Huston had the story yesterday:

A blogger is in trouble with local Ohio officials who are trying to Shut him down using a badly applied campaign finance law all because he has been critical of county officials on his blog. That’s right, a county board is trying to silence the free political speech of a local Ohio blogger because he is critical of them.

The Geauga County Board of Elections has filed charges against the owner of the Geauga Constitutional Council blog, independent blogger Ed Corsi. The Board claims that Corsi’s pseudonymously published blog violates O.R.C. 3517.20(A)(2), a code meant to assure that political campaign publications, signs, and handouts have their source transparently identified.

Caveat: this particular blogger (the one in Ohio) might be a total jerk. He might be engaging in character assassination, and hiding behind his anonymity to do it. He might be nothing more than a cowardly hack who needs a punch in the nose. I dunno.

And it doesn’t matter. Being a jerk — or a cowardly hack — is protected by the First Amendment.

End caveat. On to my point. This is the logical end of campaign finance laws.

It’s not really the money, in and of itself, that’s a “problem” in politics. It’s the favor. The quid pro quo. I give you money for your campaign, you be nice to me once you’re elected. That’s what campaign finance reformers want to stop.

But money is only good for buying things. Buying publicity, mostly. So: if you can offer publicity directly, without the financial in-between, you’re basically doing the exact same thing Big Business or Big Union do by writing checks.

Used to be, publicity wasn’t so easy to come by. You wanted to influence an election without giving to the campaign itself, you had to buy paper, and print leaflets. Buy stamps. Or advertisements. We all know who campaign finance reformers feel about that.

Now, though, all you need is a computer. You don’t even have to own one: just go down to your local library. Sign up for a free blog, start writing. Give yourself some time to become influential — results may vary — and viola! Influence!

But…nary a dime spent. And nothing, really, preventing you from coordinating with a campaign. Nothing stopping you from taking marching orders. From repeating talking points.

It has value, money or no.

And the only solution, from a campaign finance reform point of view: shut up.

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