I do not have the allergic reaction to campaign finance restrictions that many fellow libertarians do. I'm not convinced they have the positive effect their proponents claim, and I'm generally of the mind that attempting to take the money out of politics is like trying to take the sex out of porn. But when asked to stand up for "free speech" whenever a new restriction would make the quid pro quo of buying new laws, pork and regulation more difficult for this or that special interest.....well, all I can offer is the world's smallest violin playing for all those poor lobbyists.
But this new bill by Reps Paul W. Hodes, D-N.H., and Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., while potentially harmless, does seem to get the equation backward. Following up on the PMA scandal, Hodes and Giffords propose banning any member of Congress from taking contributions from entities for whom they have previously secured earmarks. Now, leaving aside that earmarks are but a tiny part of the budget process, and that campaign contributions for direct budget appropriations present nowhere near the problem that they do in influencing votes on legislation more broadly (meaning this bill would leave the vast majority of dirty dealings untouched)....doesn't it strike you that the mechanics are entirely backward?
An entity gives a contribution in expectation of a future favor, like an appropriations earmark. Once that earmark is granted, quid is quite fully quo. Saying you can't take any more donations in the future from that source (an easy enough rule to evade simply by routing the funds through a new PAC) means little when the damage is already done.
If we're going to get into restrictions of this sort, then make them real. I propose flipping the rule. A congressman is prohibited from securing (or even voting on legislation that includes) earmarks for any entity from whom they have received campaign funds in the past.