Restricting campaign contributions limits free speech
Regarding your Nov. 2 editorial, "Those bulging campaign coffers": Rather than lamenting the amount of money contributed to various campaigns this election cycle, many of us are glad to see so much interest in who governs us as expressed by the contributions made. Although money is not speech, money is absolutely essential today for candidates and organizations to get their message out, and restrictions on the amount of money contributed or spent on political issues is an indirect restriction on speech.
This type of political speech was precisely what the Founders of the United States wanted most to protect via the First Amendment. The restrictions on speech referred to and praised by your editorial have prevented organizations as varied as the Sierra Club, the NAACP, and the NRA from running television ads in the past few months running up to an election. This is hardly a step forward for a representative democracy that requires an informed electorate and robust political speech – without government restrictions on what or how much speech is allowed.
Assaults on liberty often begin slowly, and the people behind the assaults are frequently well intentioned.
Your Nov. 3 editorial, "Ask them, and young people will vote," highlights the critical issue of young adult voter turnout. It notes that experts are stumped at the apparent disconnect between young people engaging in social action but not political action.
We live in a time when news outlets are too often reporting with some agenda, concealed or overt. During campaigns, politicians and many advocacy groups seem less concerned with honestly communicating their positions on issues (which would provide voters the chance to decide if they agree or not) than saying what they think voters want to hear so as to garner the voters' support. In such an environment, it is not surprising that young people interested in effecting positive change look toward social action opportunities where the goals and outcomes are much clearer.
Young people have a unique perspective to offer the American political discussion. They need and deserve the chance to learn about the issues facing our country and the positions of those who run for public office in an honest and straightforward manner.
President, Association of Young Americans
Regarding the Nov. 3 article, "Is GOP confidence for real?": Part of this story pertains to Sen. John Kerry's "botched joke." I found a nuance in Senator Kerry's controversial comments to a college audience in California that has not yet been considered, and yet to me was the real message.
It's this: Many soldiers in our youthful volunteer Army enlist primarily for economic reasons. They can't afford higher education and/or don't yet have the job skills needed to earn a decent living. Enlisting in the armed services is one of the few paths open to many of them to gain access to the resources they need in order to improve their lives. With high enlistment bonuses, Uncle Sam is making many of our young people an offer they can't refuse. What a sad commentary on our society that young people have to risk losing their lives in order to have an opportunity to improve their lives. So Kerry's advice to study hard and get good grades might indeed keep some from ending up in Iraq.
Santa Monica, Calif.
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