More Soft Money, More Hard Law…


I've just become acquainted with a great website/blog that deals in campaign-finance reform and free speech issues. Run by attorney Bob Bauer, who specializes in election law, More Soft Money Hard Law is a wonderful read that cuts through the bullshit on how politicians and their goo-goo enablers in the press undercut electoral competition and much more.

Here's a snippet from an entry about former New Republic editor Peter Beinart's hypocritical hyperventilation over Germans cancelling a production of Mozart's Idomeneo due to protests by Muslims. "Free speech is under attack," Beinart writes, "and Idomeneo is the last straw. Yet Bauer notes that Beinart's ardor for free speech doesn't seem to include political speech, which he is happy to see constrained through law. A snippet from Bauer:

A more profound difference is that of the relationship of politics to the speech at issue. Art, understood as an autonomous sphere of speech, is seen as requiring protection from politics. Expressly political speech is politics and instantly becomes fair game for manipulation as political objectives and biases dictate. Progressives are all too tolerant of speech restrictions where there is a choice of speech to be restricted and reliable political criteria for making that choice. When Beinart argues that corporations have been subject to speech restrictions for almost one hundred years, he may be understood to approve more the political wisdom than the duration of that enactment. But a genuine commitment to free speech would seem impossible without willful blindness to the political grounding and predicted consequences of specific speech restrictions.

The cost of speech restrictions cannot be calculated only in words not spoken, or in the inefficiencies entailed in have to use one medium (broadcast) rather than another (phone banks). Limitations on speech attack what is said as a way of influencing what is thought. Beinart and others refuse to allow for this, which is why they minimize political speech restrictions, like the pre-election advertising bans, as mere inconveniences justified by some offsetting benefit such as improved public confidence.

Whole thing here.