Equal time rule is wrong

Sean C. Morgan

Jeff Kropf is right in criticizing the federal laws that require equal air time for political candidates.

The reason this requirement was implemented is essentially because the radio spectrum, owned by the public, has limited space.

Where the airwaves are public, the private radio station KXL purchased rights from the government in the form of a license to use a segment of the spectrum. Its content, political or otherwise, should not be regulated.

The main argument for the equal-time rule is essentially to prevent a candidate from receiving “unfair” advantage of an opponent who does not share the same access to the airwaves.

It sounds nice on the face of it. Nothing can be better than making things fair.

The problem is that the spectrum is a scarce resource. It is no different than any other resource, and the argument suggests similar courses of action when things are dubbed “unfair.”

Labor is a resource represented usually by compensation in the form of cash. When one candidate taps that resource and the same resource in others to raise a giant campaign war chest, while another candidate lacks access the same resources.

Under the same line of thinking, the richer candidate should be required to give some portion of his labor and his supporters’ labor to the poorer candidate, all in the interest of fairness. In reality it limits the free-speech rights of those who donated money to a campaign.

Some folks think this is a good idea and call similar ideas campaign finance reform, as if Americans can’t simply pull their heads out of the sand and un-elect anyone any time they choose. If Americans really do vote for the candidates who spend the most and keep getting it wrong, then maybe Americans shouldn’t be voting. That’s what campaign finance reform suggests: Americans are too stupid to be trusted voting. It’s the same thing with term limits.

This rule is so ridiculous that during President Ronald Reagan’s political campaigns, if a station aired one of his films, it would have been required to offer equal time to Reagan’s opponents, according to the website museum.tv.

Money, and the labor and resources it represents, is a scarce commodity like the airwaves. Just because Dan Thackaberry doesn’t have a job as a talk-show host at a radio station does not mean Kropf is taking unfair advantage of him.

Kropf has an “unfair” advantage already. He’s already a fairly well-known incumbent in a conservative district and won four elections to the same position. Maybe we also should require he get plastic surgery, make him switch to the Green Party and make him change his name to even the playing field.

As an aside, Kropf’s replacement will be selected by party officials.

This is something we should think about doing in all party primaries or use some other process established by the party.

Right now, Republicn and Democratic primaries are run at least partially at taxpayer expense, your expense.

I’m not a member of either major party, and I have no right to help select Republican or Democratic candidates in my protest against those parties. Their candidates should reflect their members. Unfortunately, a petition to open primaries will allow the likes of Diane Linn and Gov. Ted Kulongoski to vote in Republican primaries and gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton and Lars Larson to vote in Democratic primaries.

This is silly. Let’s keep primaries closed, and let the parties handle them internally.