Thursday, March 11, 2010


The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission has inched its way onto the public stage through a couple of side bar stories that have the kind of controversy which makes for media “info-tainment.”

It began when President Obama took an unprecedented shot at the Supreme Court during his 2010 State of the Union address, and Justice Samuel Alito was seen mouthing the words “not true” in response.

The story got more legs yesterday when Chief Justice John Roberts criticized the President’s comment during a lecture to law students at the University of Alabama.

Now the legislature of the sovereign Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has jumped into the fray. House Resolution 653, after some explanatory statements seeks a resolution asking Congress to propose a constitutional amendment as follows:

Section 1. Congress shall have the power to limit the contributions to or expenditures by any person or committee made in support of, in opposition to, or to influence in any way the nomination or election of any person to Federal office.

Section 2 similarily authorizes states to outlaw contributions to help candidates to state office.

Resolution 653 is a very bad idea. To begin with, it would allow congress to outlaw expenditures even by a candidate himself, his family, friends, neighbors and supporters. Beyond that, it would permit legislation curtailing the freedom of speech of anyone who seeks to persuade voters in any way.

I wonder who the supporters of Resolution 653 think should pay for political campaigns. The government? Heaven help us! If anyone wanted to insure the reelection of incumbents, it would be through public financing of political campaigns.

Federal election laws are already a maize calculated to obfuscate and discourage opposition. Franking privileges, government paid staff, and numerous other perks already foster reelection of incumbents. Cutting off the funding of opposition candidates would be a final death knell to democratically elected representative government.

Is anyone so naïve as to believe that McCain-Feingold was enacted by law makers with any other purpose in mind than to improve their own chances of reelection?

If there is any place where laissez faire should be the preferred public policy it should be in the political arena.

‘Tis said that all is fair in love and war. If that be true, then the same should be said of politics. Any attempt to set limits on the effort which free men and women can make to achieve election in a democratic republic has the aura of tyranny.

The real evil in campaign financing is not who gives or how much; it is in why money is given and what is expected in return.

Campaign contributions become bribery when elected officials are allowed to dole out goodies to their friends and contributors. Exposing corruption is an endless, full time job.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It was ever thus.

1 comment:

  1. The answer is overturning that part of McCain-Feingold that banned unlimited contributions from and to parties. Indeed, all contributions should go to the party in a partisan race and should be distributed equally to any candidate who can garner a 15% delegate total at a party caucus designed to determine who will be funded. Parties would then distribute funds to nominees as they see fit, but they do not provide members with a list of donors. Such a distribution scheme cn also work as easily with public money.