Kinsley: The Solution To Money In Politics

Obviously, people, primarily liberals/Democrats, had a conniption fit over the recent Supreme Court decision over campaign finance. Here’s Michael Kinsley

On Thursday, the day after the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, The Post and the New York Times between them carried eight separate print articles about the ruling. McCutcheon is the latest in a string of decisions in which the court has held that various limits on campaign contributions violate the First Amendment free speech rights of rich people and corporations. The articles ranged from fairly balanced news reports through only slightly slanted sidebars to open frothing and foaming on the Times editorial page.

Nevertheless, this was all too much for a group of Republican House members who introduced H.R. 2532, the so-called “Freedom From the Press Act,” which would place strict limits on how much a corporation or individual could spend putting out a newspaper or any other medium in which political opinions are expressed. “For too long,” said a news release issued with the text of the bill, “wealthy media companies have been able to dominate the political debate, drowning the voices of ordinary citizens who may not agree with these companies’ elitist views on subjects such as campaign contributions by wealthy corporations. Some of these ordinary citizens are veterans, who have fought for freedom in Afghanistan or Iraq, only to come home and find that their own voices are drowned out by the blowhards on ‘Morning Joe’ or the mandarins at the New York Times. Media corporations dominate the political debate, not just because of money but because they control the established channels of communication. This bill will be one step toward a level playing field.”

Sadly, this was not a real bill

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There is, in fact, no such bill as the Freedom From the Press Act, limiting anyone’s right to publish a newspaper or broadcast a talk show. But if there were, is it possible that the media might find this bill just a tad unconstitutional? Might they not invoke every cliche of First Amendment jurisprudence, such as “the solution to speech is more speech” (i.e., if you disagree with me, write your own op-ed piece but don’t try to stop mine) or all that stuff about disagreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it? And wouldn’t they be right?

It would have been great if it had been real, for exactly the notions Kinsley writes about. The media is spending their own money to propagate their own political point of view while demonizing Other People, primarily those on the political right, who do the same. Have you ever seen the NY Times or Washington Post or MSNBC rail against the money spent by George Soros and other big pocketed Liberals? Or how about the money Obama spent to win the presidency? As far as his idea about money in politics goes

The power of money in politics, in other words, is only as large as we allow it to be. What we need are a few more campaigns where the amount an opponent is spending becomes an issue itself. We need a political culture where a politician will have to make a calculation before accepting a contribution from Rich Plutocrats for America: Will the number of votes I gain by having more money to spend on obnoxious TV commercials be bigger or smaller than the number I will lose because people are offended by Rich Plutocrats for America (and those obnoxious TV commercials)?

He wants people to speak up. That’s a great idea.

However, I will note that the moneyed class, and the media, have much more influence than the average citizen. Did they listen when we said “Hell No!” to Obamacare? Or many other laws and regulations? Sure, the Government, particularly elected officials, ie, public servants, listen now and then, but money and access is huge. While I don’t like someone people being able to essentially buy elections, power, and access, the 1st Amendment is the 1st. We have to deal with it. I wrote a post somewhere in the archives, having trouble finding it, that they key is not to put regulations on citizens, including the moneyed class, but on the elected officials. How about restricting lawmakers from offering legislation that helps any individual, company, or industry that has donated to them above a certain monetary level? Or hurts a competitor of the entity that donated? Restricting lawmakers from voting in the same manner? Clamping down heavily on “pay for play”?

There are lots of ideas, but they should mostly be aimed at the lawmakers, not the citizens, in order to reduce the influence of money in politics. There has always been a problem with money in politics. The biggest problem is not trying to elect, or defeat, officials and legislation, but in trying to essentially bribe politicians to pass legislation that helps the donor and/or hurts rivals. Is giving boatloads of money to a politician part of “asking for redress of grievance”? That’s the big question.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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