The controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which struck down many restrictions on campaign finance practices, is four years old. When the ruling came down, blowhards such as Keith Olbermann (then on MSNBC) railed that it was "our Dred Scott," likening it to the notorious and despicable antebellum ruling that blacks had no rights whites need respect.
The video above lays out "5 Things You Didn't Know About Citizens United" and should make us all feel a little better about the ruling. It's hosted by Reason regular Remy, produced by Sean Malone, and comes from the Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit headed up by former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley A. Smith (read Reason articles by and about him here).
Shorlty after the Citizens United ruling in 2010, Reason TV released "3 Reasons Not to Sweat the Citizens United SCOTUS Ruling":
That video in turn led to my appearing on Bill Moyers' PBS show, where I discussed Citizens United, campaign finance, and the benefits of anonymous political speech with the host and Harvard's Lawrence Lessig.
Go here for video and a transcript of that conversation. It was a wide-ranging, spirited, and at-times intense discussion that is the very model of excellent public TV. I'm happy to say that I received a lot of email from people who said that I persuaded them to a more libertarian perspective on the issue. Here's a snippet from the end of the appearance:
BILL MOYERS: And in the long run, what do you think we ought to do?
NICK GILLESPIE: I, well, you know, I think that we should move in the direction that Citizens United is pointing. And to have less campaign finance regulation. Because that will increase the amount and variety of speech. When you talk about having, you know, controlling or taking back our democracy, that means saying, "Okay, you can speak now. You cannot speak now." In the end, it's about the suppression of speech, which is the most dangerous thing.
I don't like corporations. I don't like politicians. I, for whatever reason, I love free speech. And I see this decision as enabling more of that, which will help me and my, you know, gang of ragtag utopians, hopefully, pull off the caper of the 21st century, and actually work towards a government that, you know, does its proper functions well, and leaves us the rest alone, to live our lives in peace.
LAWRENCE LESSIG: So, yay, free speech, we agree about that.
NICK GILLESPIE: Absolutely.
LAWRENCE LESSIG: Horrible, horrible lobbyist, fundraising Congress. We also used to agree about that, at the end of your video. So, I should think we agree. We should have more free speech and less control by lobbyists or the funders. And have a Congress that cares about the people and not about their funders.
NICK GILLESPIE: And we can do that now. We don't need a constitutional amendment. What we need to do is to say to our congressmen, "If you vote for this law, if you vote for this policy, you're done. You're fried." And that can happen. And it has happened. And it should happen more. I think we are moving into a world of more engaged politics, more participatory politics, because of the internet. Because of other dimensions of life. Decentralization of power or rather of knowledge, if not of political power. And it will lead to a decentralization of political power.
Lessig's main passion these days is a group called Rootstrikers. Check it out.
Bill Moyers' current show is Moyers & Company. Check it out here.