Friday, October 14, 2016

Hillary's Pledge to Overturn the First Amendment—and Why it Should Be Defeated

Tyler O’Neil has a piece over at PJ Media responding to Hillary Clinton’s “plan to introduce a campaign finance amendment in her first 30 days as president.” This would be a version of the Democrats’ Democracy for All amendment, which I have labeled The "Drown Out the Voice of Average Americans" Amendment. This Amendment would empower federal and state governments to enact broad restrictions on campaign spending of private money by private citizens.

In No, Hillary, Bernie, Millionaires Aren't Buying Elections - 2016 Proves It, O’Neil lays out the facts that contradict that claim. He also talks about how wealthy donors give as much or more to Leftist candidate. Finally, O’Neil advocates for free speech equally for everyone, noting that, regardless of how much you are able to spend, “it should be perfectly legal for us to advocate for what we believe in.”

It’s a good article. I left these comments, starting with a quote from the article:

“People give money to support causes they believe in, political and apolitical. Just because the rich are able to give more than others doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to exercise their free speech.”

Yes, free speech is an unalienable right. And when the state restricts that right for anyone, it restricts that right for everyone. But here’s a little-appreciated fact: When wealthy people spend money to support think tanks, positions on issues, or to back politicians they believe in, they speak not only for themselves but for anyone who agrees with them. Just as the cumulative economic value billionaires create for untold millions of average consumers far exceeds the fortunes they earn, so the intellectual value their political spending creates for average voters far exceeds the benefit to themselves.

When the Koch Brothers spend their own money on disseminating their right-wing viewpoints, they speak for the millions of average voters who agree with them. I know I’ve drawn on the intellectual work of free market capitalist-leaning think tank Koch recipients like The Federalist Society, the Manhattan Institute, and the Ayn Rand Institute in advocating for my pro-liberty viewpoints. Undoubtedly, most political candidates supported by the Koch Brothers generally advance my views. For example, in 2016 the Kochs will avoid supporting Trump and focus on supporting a liberty-leaning Senate. That suits me just fine. Koch spending does far more to advance my ideas than my single inconsequential vote could ever do. Overturning Citizens United would be disastrous for this average voter, as it would restore my much less powerful influence prior to the rise of uncapped millionaire, billionaire, and super PAC spending! Likewise, when Tom Steyer spends his own money supporting his left-wing advocacy, he speaks for millions who agree with him in the same respect.

And Steyer’s spending is also good for people on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, like me. For those who disagree with the Speyers or the Kochs, their advocacy creates numerous opportunities to present counter-arguments. When those with the financial resources to reach mass audiences, their political spending doesn’t somehow diminish “the role of average voters in elections." They amplify the average voter’s knowledge and voice. Millionaires and billionaires and PACS give voice to millions of everyday people, bring relevant political issues, knowledge, and competing opinions to the public forefront, and foster debate among average voters in coffee shops, around kitchen tables, in social media, in online debate forums, in newspaper letters sections—anywhere ordinary people gather to chat. “Big money” in politics makes for more informed voters—at least the ones who pay attention.

No matter how much anyone spends on his own speech, no private citizen or institution can mute anyone else’s voice. An “ordinary” individual can write letters to the editor, speak to friends and co-workers, attend town-hall meetings, start a blog, participate in social media or online debate forums, or post a comment on the PJ’s website. He can pool his money with others to take out ads, or donate his own money to think tanks or PACs that advocate viewpoints he agrees with. He can contact his congressman. Who could stop him? Only the government, with its law-making power of the gun.

In the end, it is the individual voter—each equal in having one vote—that determines electoral outcomes. It’s the voter who has to be convinced. No one can buy an election, and no rational person would buy the Democrats’ idiot slogans. The Democrats’ intention is quite transparent; to monopolize the flow of information voters have to make decisions. Politicians who want to legally restrict and control the free flow of political discourse are nothing more than aspiring tyrants. Hillary’s proposed campaign finance amendment is a brazen attempt to overthrow the First Amendment, the bedrock of citizens’ ability to hold the political class accountable.


In the comments section, I replied to groland who wrote:

This article completely misses the point. True, some spend a lot of money on losers. And sometimes there is no connection between amount spent and election outcome. But the donors spend to buy influence AFTER the election. In fact the really smart money, like Wall St., backs both sides. The donors are writing the legislation, that much we now to be true.

I replied:

The donors don’t “buy influence.” They “buy” ACCESS to lawmakers for the chance to plead their case in order to influence the legislation that affects their lives. And so what? The whole point of the democratic process in a free republic is to recognize the rights of we citizens to exert political influence in whatever capacity we are able. We are, after all, citizens who have a government of, for, and by “we the people”—every single one of us. Private political donations are one means of exerting influence. (That’s why political campaigns should be funded strictly by private donations, rather than by “public funding,” as Sanders advocates. Public funding would be a disaster morally, constitutionally, and regards democracy. Public funding would in effect be a wall insulating the politicians from the people they govern.)

Granted, these days everybody (the “special interests) is out to exert influence on politicians. But that’s not a primary. That’s a consequence of the vast extent to which government has gained control over our affairs. But that doesn’t change the fundamental issue. Political influence is what intellectual freedom is about. What is the purpose of your comment? If it’s not an attempt to exert influence, you might as well stand before a mirror and talk to yourself. Statist politicians would love the chance to go on regulating, taxing, and spending without those pesky private citizens (subjects?) to answer to. But any politician who wants to restrict in any way our freedom to exert political influence on those whose legislation affects our lives—to “petition the government,” as the First Amendment reads—should be recognized for what they are; aspiring tyrants whose aim is to enslave us.

[NOTE: Most of the comments, including mine and groland’s, have disappeared from the site.]

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