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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

How One Man is Losing His Political Voice
A column by Palm Beach Post editorial writer Joel Englehart highlights how modern, big money campaigns have diminished the speech of ordinary citizens.

Jack Sheehan has made a practice out of endorsing candidates since the 1960s. He does so by placing a sign in his front yard, letting his neighbors know who he supports. This used to matter, says Englehart, "it used to be that putting up a campaign sign meant something. Candidates would prostrate themselves before neighborhood leaders, get their signs up and wait for the votes to come."

Now, candidates don't need folks like Jack so much. They spend millions on their own political speech, reaching voters directly with ads and junk mail. They put up signs on busy corners, with little connection to the people who actually live there. Or worse yet, they let others do this for them, hiding behind front groups that nobody has ever heard of.

In a simpler time, where people spent less on speech, every one of us could afford to have our voice heard. But now that we've embraced the notion that "money is speech," it means only a few can afford to have a voice. The rest of us can still put up our signs, but they get buried in the mudslinging and big money ads. That's not what the First Amendment is all about.

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