Thursday, July 26, 2012

Campaign Finance: Free Speech, Not Disclosure, is the Main Issue

Should campaign contributions be disclosed publicly as a matter of law? That was the subject of a recent NJ Star-Ledger editorial. Complaining about some Republicans' reversal on the issue, the Editors Wrote:

   The change came after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United broke the final shackles on campaign spending. Republicans no longer needed to use the disclosure argument as a shield against calls to limit spending. That battle was won. So now they defend the secrecy, knowing that most of this money will go to them and that the message would be weakened if voters knew the sources.
   How seriously would you take a claim that climate change is fiction if you knew the ads were funded by the oil industry? How about a call to repeal Dodd-Frank that is funded by Wall Street? Don’t voters have a right to see who is holding the strings that control these marionette candidates?
   But for now, secret money will continue to flood into campaigns, drowning out the voice of common people. The Republican march to the extreme continues.

I love when the Left attacks "extremism." It shows their utter fear of any kind of principled opposition from the Right--even of the generally weak Republican variety.

As to disclosure, the Editors obviously want it because they believe that most voters would shoot the messenger rather than apply reasoned analysis to the argument being presented. If the oil industry and Wall Street are funding political advertisements (or candidates) seeking repeal of the statist attacks on their businesses, that very fact ipso facto discredits the case for repeal--along with the candidates themselves. Sadly, there are many ignorant voters who would fall for this Leftist line. There is no need to think seriously on the issue. Look who's paying for it, they'll say, abandoning any pretense at becoming a serious, informed voter.

That aside, I'm undecided on the disclosure issue, but certainly not on the real issue; free speech rights protected by the First Amendment. The Editors took a slap at a significant Supreme Court victory for the First Amendment--the Citizens United case. That's what I had in mind with these brief comments:

zemack July 18, 2012 at 11:00AM

Leaving aside the disclosure issue, the real threat to “the voice of common people” are those who favor government “shackles on Campaign Spending.”

In reality, there are only individual people, not “common” vs. “uncommon.” The fact that free associations of individuals—corporations, unions, PACS, etc.—choose to voluntarily pool their money to advocate for a common cause does not and will not “drown out” anyone. They may be more effective at getting their message out, and that’s a good thing for public debate.

But it’s bad for those who desire an imperial political class that can operate without those pesky effective citizen voices. And perhaps it’s bad for old media monopolists that used to dominate. But limitless spending on political campaigns—secret or not—is great for First Amendment rights and freedom generally.

If the flood of campaign spending is bad, then work on getting rid of the cause that draws that money into politics; government meddling in the economy.

1 comment:

Mike Kevitt said...

Without reading past your quote of the editors, I ask, How do we know the extreme, here, isn't just reason, as opposed to ANYthing else? An educated public (which we don't have, not among those with college degrees anymore than the rest) would look for well reasoned arguements, from human life, and all which that implies. Only secondarily would people care about sources. They wouldn't need to be primarily concerned with sources. But, in our ignorant and indoctrinated public, sources are of primary importance in maintaining bliss.

Reading on, I respond, The Editors KNOW most voters would rather shoot the messenger (etc.). In effect, ALL the voters would. But, then, we can't expect the ignorant and indoctrinated (not even to some contorted, but actual form of mental functioning) to try efficient, reasoned thinking. It's more trouble than 99% of'em can be expected to put themselves to. It's just so foreign to them. I KNOW that. As to the educated, but committed statists, there's a way they'll have to be dealt with, sooner or later.

As to sources, in an educated public, I think provision of sources, up front, can't be required by law. But, that sources be easily available, can be. Anybody interested, for whatever reason, would just have to easily look'em up. This might really be handy if we started getting substantial amounts of guff comin' at us.

Individuals making up some "common people" can identify each other, and a common cause among them, pool their resources and be heard, just like corporations.

If forcible control of human action was limited to the proper functions of government, there WOULD be lots less spending on campaigns: none on damage reversal, control or inflicting, but only on keeping law and government. Look how much more would be available, to everyboby, yes, everyboby, for what they want.