In SCOTUS McCain-Feingold Decision, People Miss The Best Way To Reduce Monetary Influence In Elections

If you haven’t heard about the SCOTUS decision, here’s a little recap

Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.

Quite frankly, I agree with the notion that unfettered corporate money flooding the pockets of politicians is not always a good thing. Would you agree? However, the 1st Amendment is the 1st Amendment, and should not be applied unequally. The Right has had issues with this part of McCain-Feingold because of the Constitutionality, and, while the little folks on the Left cheered this restriction, the big  folks realized that Democrats tend to get big donations from corporations much more than Republicans did, so it would hurt them.

The Obama admin. had a tizzy, decrying the decision in no uncertain terms, then running off to interact, and perhaps hire, a few more lobbyists.

Ralph Nadar’s group, Public Citizen, is calling for a Constitutional amendment to restrict the free speech rights of corporations. But, don’t say the left hates the Constitution.

SCOTUSblog discusses the potential for new laws to try and circumvent this ruling (and then a lawsuit can be filed for violating the redress of grievance portion of the 1st)

Congress conceivably could attack the perceived problem of money-in-politics by another indirect means, by tightening restrictions on dealings between lobbyists and elected officials, including legislators.  Lobbying, too, has First Amendment protection, but it is an activity that can be regulated at least at the level of disclosure.  A drastic approach might be to expand the concept of questionable vote-buying, by requiring a more detailed public accounting of how lawmakers vote in relation to lobbyists with whom they deal directly and in relation to the industries who may benefit from legislative favors that flow out of the lobbyists’ efforts.  One perhaps frivolous suggestion already making the rounds of political conversation is to require legislators to wear NASCAR-style uniforms, emblazoned with the logos of their corporate “sponsors.”

They also mention a move towards full public financing. And lots of other people have lots to say, both left and right. But, they are all missing the simpest, most direct, and far reaching method of reducing the actual influence on money in politics: restrictions on elected officials. Sure, there have been some put in place over time, yet, they are mostly ignored, until someone is caught being really, really bad. And what happens to that person? In some cases, jail. In most cases, perhaps a hearing, a smackdown, then it is time to move along.

So, if people want something done, then the massive restrictions need to be placed on the elected officicials. And government employees of all stripes. “You want to “donate” $100,000 to my campaign? Sure. Thanks. Appreciate. But, by law, I cannot reciprocate and submit a law that is favorable for you. Period. I prefer not to be impeached for breaking the law.” Because it is not the money donated that is truly the problem, it is the people who the money is donated to that are the problem.

Most of us small donors give money to candidates that tend to espouse the same political beliefs we have, and, all we expect is that they vote the way they promised. Corporations expect laws to be written to their benefit. Make that quid pro quo near impossible with restrictions on those elected officials.

Crossed at Right Wing News and Stop The ACLU

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2 Responses to “In SCOTUS McCain-Feingold Decision, People Miss The Best Way To Reduce Monetary Influence In Elections”

  1. Mike Aaron says:

    I’m a self-professed progressive, but a pretty open-minded one, and I was very curious what the conservative opinions were regarding the Citizens United case.

    I have to admit that, after looking on about 10 different popular conservative sites, that no one besides Teach has taken so much as a breath away from beating up Obama to consider the SCOTUS decision. Thanks, William, for that.

    I was actually relieved to see Teach’s opinion that unfettered corporate/union funds in political advertising might be a problem.

    His follow-on comment about restricting politicians on quid pro quo actions, however, seems short sighted to me. Quid pro quo restrictions seem pretty easy to circumvent. Attorneys, politicians, corporations & unions are masters of exploiting loopholes.

    I’ve heard the argument that Dems stand to lose more from this. Frankly, I don’t give a crap about which political party will lose or gain more. I believe this hurts all Americans in the end.

    I have difficulty understanding any real good for our country that came from corporate citizenhood. But like I said, I am fairly openminded, and would be interested to hear other opinions.

    • I have to admit that, after looking on about 10 different popular conservative sites, that no one besides Teach has taken so much as a breath away from beating up Obama to consider the SCOTUS decision.

      Welcome, and, thank you. Personally, I think this is important info, and Bush made a HUGE mistake in signing McCain-Feingold. He even said it was unconstitutional.

      True, people will find ways around regulations and laws, they always do, but, I think if we put the burden of being in deep deep trouble on government officials, particulalrly elected officials, we can certainly reduce the influence money has on elections. Consider those involved with ABSCAM, or William Jefferson, or others who took bribes straight out. They get in legal trouble, but, a Congressman who takes campaign donations for a bill or a bit of pork, maybe sending a contract that companies way, is legal, and almost business as usual.

      I wouldn’t say that corporation should be considered citizens, but, the 1st Amendment doesn’t distinguish between citizens and private entities. A company, big or small, should be able to petition the government for redress of grievance, and should be able to criticize the government without fear of retaliation.

      If we are going to limit big companies from donating massive money, then, all big donors should be limited. No more bundling, no donations from unions or advocacy groups. But, there are ways around that.

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