Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"McCutcheon" Advances Free Speech and Republican Government

Following the Supreme Court's McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, a series of letters was published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger under the heading Debating the brave new campaign financing ruling

One letter writer, Greg Reed of the Institute for Justice (Free speech overreaction), said in support of both the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, "Standing between campaign money and elected office is the discerning voter, who deserves more credit." 

On the other side, Phil Lipari, citing a famous Ben Franklin quote, opposed the McCutcheon ruling. "[T]o allow the rich to purchase our government means we are now an oligarchy and no longer a republic," Lipari said, showing he has no understanding of the difference between an oligarchy and a republic. 

And Paul Ambos approvingly cited Supreme Court justice Potter Steward, who "was famous for writing in a decision that, while he could not come up with a strict definition of 'hard-core pornography,' nevertheless, 'I know it when I see it.'" Strict definitions are essential to fair and objective laws;and objective laws are essential to a rights-protecting republican government. Apparently unaware of the totalitarian implications of Stewart's premise—arbitrary rule by non-objective law—Ambos then said:

[T]oday’s so-called "conservative" majority on the Supreme Court can evidently come up with a definition of the kind of "corruption" that can be prohibited by Congress (which they limit to a specific "quid pro quo" only), but then they go on to say that the flagrant buying of our government by the richest 600 people in the country doesn’t even constitute an "appearance of corruption."

I left these comments: 

Money is the means of exercising free speech, which is the means of advocating one's viewpoints. Any restriction on spending is a restriction on free speech, which is in obvious violation of the First Amendment, not to mention moral decency.

As Reed points out, "Standing between campaign money and elected office is the discerning voter." No matter how much money any individual or association of individuals chooses to spend on their own speech, no individual has more than one vote. The voters ultimately vote based on their own viewpoints, not based on how much money someone else spends on their own speech. The rich can never "buy more democracy than the average citizen" in a political system based on "one man, one vote." No one can "purchase our government." Only voters can install candidates into office.

And the idea that "the appearance of corruption" justifies trampling people's free speech rights amounts to an assumption of guilt without any evidence. This is an inversion of a fundamental principle of a just and free society, "innocent until proven guilty." Unless concrete evidence of outright corruption surfaces, the amount of money private citizens spend on political speech is none of the government's business. The mere "appearance of corruption" in the eyes of some is no justification for violating anyone's free speech rights.

Both the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions are good for individual rights and for America.

And in reply to a commenter who called for public funding of elections, I said:

I can think of nothing more corrupt than public funding of elections. This would mean that private citizens would be forced to fund candidates and ideas whether they agree or not. Only private funding of election campaigns is consistent with constitutional republican government.

Related Reading:

A Few Thoughts on the SCOTUS Campaign Finance Ruling


What is Objective Law?—Harry Binswanger

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