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At the tick of midnight, all (well, most) critiques of incumbents must cease

The excellent Warren Meyer reminds me that one of the blacker provisions in the anti-free speech McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act went into effect just thirty-seven minutes ago. From now until the end of the election, you and I and everyone we know (so long as everyone we know is not employed by a major media outlet—they’re exempted) cannot criticize by name any incumbent candidate.

The Examiner’s house editorial today puts it well:

Something almost without precedent in America will happen Thursday. That ‘s the day when McCain-Feingold — aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — will officially silence broadcast advertising that contains criticism of members of Congress seeking re-election in November. Before 2006, American election campaigns traditionally began in earnest after Labor Day. Unless McCain-Feingold is repealed, Labor Day will henceforth mark the point in the campaign when congressional incumbents can sit back and cruise, free of those pesky negative TV and radio spots. It is the most effective incumbent protection act possible, short of abolishing the elections themselves.

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