Campaigns/Elections

The Right to Free (Taxpayer-Funded) Speech

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In addition to amending the Constitution, critics of today's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC recommend taxpayer funding of election campaigns as a remedy for the coming onslaught of corporate speech. One model favored by campaign finance reformers is Arizona's "Clean Elections" system, which provides "matching funds" to a candidate's opponents when he exceeds a legal threshold on spending. Yesterday, coincidentally, a federal judge rejected this scheme, ruling that it violates the First Amendment by penalizing candidates for talking too much. U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver said the matching funds provision "burdens…First Amendment rights, is not supported by a compelling state interest, is not narrowly tailored, and is not the least restrictive alternative."

The rationale for Arizona's system is similar to that of the "millionaire's amendment," a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that the Supreme Court overturned in 2008 on First Amendment grounds.  That provision raised contribution limits for candidates facing wealthy opponents spending their own money, a kind of challenge deemed grossly unfair by incumbent legislators who do not like attending fundraisers. Arizona's approach seems, if anything, harder to justify, since even a candidate who raises lots of money in small contributions from enthusiastic supporters attracted by his ideas would see that advantage nullified by taxpayer subsidies for his opponent.

The Institute for Justice, which brought the Arizona challenge, has more on the decision here.

NEXT: "The Court's ruling will simply result in a more diverse mix of political speech, and that is a good thing for American democracy"

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  1. Dude thats like totally unreal man, I mean really.

    RT
    http://www.web-privacy.pl.tc

    1. The Wise One hath spoken.

      1. He has an email randomizer! He cannot be stopped!

        1. Why would anyone want to?

          1. The Privacy Spambot believes he has a Right to Free (Reason Magazine-Funded) Speech.

            1. Do not question The Sage.

    2. Wait, really?

      I mean, seriously?

    3. As we get closer to the end of days (December 2012), Anonymity Bot becomes more profound yet more cryptic, like the Oracle at Delphi, or Uwe Boll movies.

  2. Yesterday, coincidentally, a federal judge rejected this scheme [Arizona’s “Clean Elections” system], ruling that it violates the First Amendment by penalizing candidates for talking too much.

    Who was that judge? He sounded just like Judge Napolitano! Down to earth logic!

  3. “Free speech? But what about equal speech?” they ask. Figure out a realistic and fair way to distribute “equality of speech,” and then we’ll talk.

    1. If everyone has an equal amount of pie, they will all speak at the same volume. Because their mouths will be filled with equal shares of pie.

      1. I like pie.

        1. Greedy corporate bastard. Share your pie!

    2. Making everyone rhetorically challenged should bring about real equality.

      *starts rewriting Harrison Bergeron*

    3. We need to make everyone rhetorically challenged in the name of equality. Handicap the more able!

      1. Does that mean I can stick a sock in Obama’s mouth?

    4. Freedom and equality (beyond equality under the law) are generally mutually exclusive propositions.

  4. Steve Forbes isn’t president, is he? What are they scared of?

    1. They are afraid the the combined star power of Bill Gates and Donald Trump will overpower the political world win they run on a combined ticket in 2012. I mean, everyone loves both of those guys. Gates / Trump 2012!

      1. No, no, make it stop!

  5. Arizona’s approach seems, if anything, harder to justify

    Nah. You just don’t say “a candidate who raises lots of money in small contributions from enthusiastic supporters attracted by his ideas would see that advantage nullified by taxpayer subsidies for his opponent.” You quietly revel in it (with maybe a “BWAHA teh TBAGRZ r raising taxes trying to stop us LOL hippo crates!” or two).

    I’m surprised any court rejected it.

  6. Of course, this taxpayer funding will only be extended to candidates of the two “major” parties because they’re the only “serious” candidates. Nice scam.

    1. Damned if that ain’t the case.

    2. Are you serious? Are you serious?

    3. Exactly. I actually kind like the idea of giving extra space and time to fringe candidates, but you KNOW it won’t be to fringe candidates. It’s only going to D’s and R’s. Cause if they didn’t limit, people would shit their pance when taxpayer funds went to the socialist workers party or the neo-nazis.

      1. pants

    4. Of course that will be the case. Every change made to the electoral system is designed to strengthen the two party system.

  7. Striking down McCain-Feingold should be considered as a great victory for independent candidates, who are many times hobbled in their efforts by the stifling paperwork they have to create just to comply with that monster.

  8. Tell me,

    Legal arguments aside, how is this different from outcomes we will have with Citizens United, other than who the actors are?

    Or can you give me a reason why corporations receiving subsidies currently will not have an incentive to use that money to support political outcomes that will grant them more?

    Citizen-units who wish to reduce subsidies will be competing against their political opponents who are spending the citizen-units money.

    One can say “yeah, we should get rid of the subsidies, too!” But, well, one can also say that we should really drain the flooded basement, but doing so while running a garden hose on the floor doesn’t really seem consistent, eh?

    Matching funds-style schemes (again, policy-wise; I’m not a lawyer) have the benefit of at least being marginally transparent.

    1. Legal arguments aside

      Oh, for fuck’s sake. Take your male gaze and get out of here.

      1. For fuck’s sake, argue I’m wrong if you want to, but I’ll wait for the proprietors of this fine gin joint to kick me out.

        Or if you prefer, kindly take your snot-covered keyboard, fold it until it is all sharp edges, and shove it up your ass.

        1. I don’t know what kind of keyboard you have, but mine just breaks when I try to fold it.

          1. A big part of mine is aluminum, but even the plastic ones still end up sharp.

        2. I admire your vileness. Hell, I like you. You can come over to my house and fuck my sister.

          1. Aw, shucks. I like your warts. And thanks, but I already have a sister.

          2. Better your sister than your mom, ‘though your mom’s not bad!

    2. “One can say “yeah, we should get rid of the subsidies, too!” But, well, one can also say that we should really drain the flooded basement, but doing so while running a garden hose on the floor doesn’t really seem consistent, eh?”

      An even bigger hose would be restricting free speech. And remember that this decision isn’t legitimizing corporatism.

      1. “An even bigger hose would be restricting free speech. And remember that this decision isn’t legitimizing corporatism.”

        I don’t know if that’s true. The effective loosening of disclosure rules and the increase in the amount of money that will be spent means two things, I think:

        – With easier ways for for money to enter the political market, how will “follow the money” sort of public inquiry happen?
        – With easier and more money, why won’t part of the political fight move more solidly into the board room and shareholder forums?
        – Legislation is not zero-sum, while relative influence is. Regulatory capture will obviously not go down, and I also cannot imagine that the expectations of results for the corporations footing the bill will. Or put another way: if I’m outbidding you 2-1 for a politician’s good graces and then up that to 3-1, not only am I beating you, but I am likely going to ask for more, too. All of which requires more coordination, informal or otherwise, between the funders and the servants.

        1. This bill doesn’t create or guarantee more corporatism, it just allows free speech.

    3. I think this is a good point, but one where the solution of restricting speech only makes the problem worse.

      Ultimately, the virtually unlimited power of the Central State to spend money is the problem.

    4. Re: Jamie,

      Legal arguments aside, how is this different from outcomes we will have with Citizens United, other than who the actors are?

      What are you talking about?

      Or can you give me a reason why corporations receiving subsidies currently will not have an incentive to use that money to support political outcomes that will grant them more?

      You cannot correct a wrong (the subsidies) with an ever WORSE wrong – the McCain-Feingold Keep The Undesirables Out Of Our Precious Process
      Act.

      Citizen-units who wish to reduce subsidies will be competing against their political opponents who are spending the citizen-units money.

      What’s a “Citizen-unit”? It that like Kirk-Unit and Decker-Unit and other Carbon-Units?

      Anyway . . . if the problem is the subsidies (which they are), you cannot correct such a wrong by imposing an ever worse bureaucratic juggernaut like McCain-Feingold Keep The Undesirables Out Of Our Precious Process
      Act.

      One can say “yeah, we should get rid of the subsidies, too!” But, well, one can also say that we should really drain the flooded basement, but doing so while running a garden hose on the floor doesn’t really seem consistent, eh?

      Your analogies are not good. A better analogy would be trying to correct the wrong made by a rape by beating the crap out of the victim – you may say “Hey, at least the rapist will not enjoy hearing her scream” but I would argue that it is better NOT to beat the crap out of her if we can help it, right???

      1. What are you talking about?

        The post by Sollum that kicked this off. I was contrasting the idea of (a) people running for office getting money from the government directly to enable them to do so with the idea of (b) people running for office getting money from a company who in turn gets subsidies from the government, presumably in return for, ah, consideration from the company.

        What’s a “Citizen-unit”?

        Those interchangeable bags of animated meat that pay taxes so that the beneficent rulers of our fair nation state can dole out those taxes to the favored employers of meat-bags.

        You cannot correct a wrong (the subsidies) with an ever WORSE wrong

        I know you don’t like my analogies, but if someone has a problem with motivation because they smoke too much dope, providing them incentives to buy more dope seems like a bad idea.

        Your analogies are not good. A better analogy would be trying to correct the wrong made by a rape by beating the crap out of the victim

        My analogy may suck, but yours is worse. If the victim here is the rape victim/tax-payer and the violence is tax, the rapist/subsidy-consumer is being encouraged to come back for more.

  9. Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, tells National Review Online that House Democrats are planning to use the budget-reconciliation process in order to pass Obamacare. “They’re meeting with each other this weekend to pursue it,” says Ryan. “I’ve spoken with many Democrats and the message is this: They’re not ready to give up. They’ve waited their entire adult lives for this moment and they aren’t ready to let 100,000 pesky votes in Massachusetts get in the way of fulfilling their destiny. They’ll look at every option and spend the next four or five days figuring it out.”

    The Corner

    1. Some of them, sure. But, in the end, these are politicians who mostly would like to remain politicians. Forcing the bill through means–and they know it–forcible ejection in November. As it stands, there’s every reason to expect a record number of seats to swap out.

      The Democrats are getting what they deserved. This country has no appetite for a massive power grab. What we endured under the GOP had been bad enough.

  10. Influence exists. Limiting the freedom of all, except for the anointed few (i.e., newspapers), changes that not one whit.

    Government has no rights, not even the right to exist. If there’s a problem, attack and limit government, not people or groupings of people. It’s quite simple.

  11. “Progressives” seem to view speech as a zero sum game: If corporations get more of it, the “common man” must necessarily get less.

    1. Corporations are stealing my surplus speech value.

    2. See jamie above. I also like his blithe dismissal of the idea of reducing the amount of favors government has to peddle.

      1. Let’s play a game. We’re competing for tokens. Let’s say there are 100 tokens, and, say, 3M people who get to vote on our respective interpretive dances for quality. More votes for me on any of my dances means I win.

        For every dance you get to do, I get to do 500.

        Now, the world is getting a lot more interpretive dance but I think I’m getting the tokens.

        I don’t think that anything I’ve written here is zero-sum – I don’t assert that anywhere.

        And my blithe dismissal of reducing government isn’t (at least to me) blithe – I’d love to shrink it. It is simply that it is not going to happen in any universe that looks remotely like ours.

        Or to put it another way, can you point me to any electoral period in the lifespan of any living person in which it shrank, or any plausible argument that some set of politicians with even a remote chance of getting power have made to shrink it?

        I guess that may be our disconnect. We agree on the abstract benefits of shrinking government. It is the outcome I’d strongly prefer. But, while I also have a strong preference for super hero xray vision, beer that fixes liver problems and makes people smarter and my own personal rocket ship, I’m realistic about my chances of getting those as well.

        1. OK, what examples do you have of corporate ads that swayed the public to vote for one politician or another? There should have been plenty in the states where corporate speech wasn’t banned…

          1. What, you think earmarks go to companies picked out of a hat or something?

            Off the top of my head, I can’t think of one for which a given politician was *undeniably* elected because of corporate spending. (If one denies the value of advertising, though, one must already think that we have some seriously irrational corporations already.) But you don’t even need guarantees – if advertising isn’t a complete waste, there’s still a lot that can provide shareholder value.

            Kennedy, somewhat inexplicably, seemed to think the curious case of the $3M dollar state supreme was at least worrisome looking enough in Caperton; guess the dartboard approach to jurisprudence leads to these sorts of self-reversals.

            I think it is relatively uncontroversial in these parts that the Hearst corporation and its special position as press had a strong effect on the push to outlaw pot.

            As for future influences, if he doesn’t own a few already, Chavez can just buy a corp or two that just might develop political interests next time politicians start pointing out what a demogauge he is. China already owns plenty, so they’re set. Now that’s a new world order.

        2. Also, sure I want lots of things that I can’t afford or that aren’t available, but the difference is that humans deserve freedom. It’s not that I simply want to be free, I have a right to be free.

          1. That’s sort of my point. Humans absolutely deserve freedom. Artificial entities constructed from statutory law that, when you boil it down, are essentially a bundle of contracts are not people. That corporations have to act according to a ficundiary duty to maximize profit in all legal situations makes them extremely unlike mortal meatbags.

            Freedom and wealth usually have an overall virtuous cycle over the long term. But on whatever measure of freedom you want to pick, it is always the case that localized conditions mean that short-term profits could be had by acting in ways that reduce freedom.

            Increasing the ability of profit maximizing legal constructions to more efficiently effect the change of the rules under which they act, in my opinion, will not inevitably increase freedom, and rather run a severe risk of causing a lot of damage.

            1. A nicely put summary of the basic problem people have with this…

    3. UR takin mai air

    4. progressives see everything as a zero sum game… if earn a high income by producing something of high value, then i must be making someone else earn less

      1. So – if it’s a zero sum game to a Chony – Chony’s IQ increases by debating Reasonoids. Noooow I understand why he/she/it comes here for the dialogue abuse. Bad reasoning, but consistent with the zero-sum, “Progressive” thinking.
        Now it all makes sense – Thanks, Ed!

        1. The Chad half of Chony told me he is better than me in every way, so it must be true.

          But he’s no elitist!

      2. I think of zero sum philosophy as a positive. For example, every time a person becomes a progressive, the rest of us get a little smarter.

      3. progressives see everything as a zero sum game

        Indeed they do. But now they have applied that discredited economic theory to the realm of ideas. If anyone required further proof of their intellectual bankruptcy, this is it.

  12. If there’s a problem, attack and limit government, not people or groupings of people. It’s quite simple.

    Especially the federal government. That should be a no-brainer.

  13. What’s a “Citizen-unit”?

    Those interchangeable bags of animated meat that pay taxes so that the beneficent rulers of our fair nation state can dole out those taxes to the favored employers of meat-bags.

    Brilliant! This is why Obama got himself elected, y’know.

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