Levelling the Playing Field Against Fringey McMoneypants


If ever you wanted to see a tidy trifecta of journalistic contempt for 1) free speech objections to campaign finance laws, 2) non-establishment political actors, and 3) the little guy, look no further to today's asinine column by the New York Times' Gail Collins. Excerpt:

We have been entertaining ourselves with theories about how this election year is going to be all about voter anger. Or Washington insiders. Or health care. Or TARP. But, really, it's going to be about money. Gobs of cash falling on campaigns like tar balls on a beach. […]

Whenever we try to come up with a system that will even the playing field, the Supreme Court calls foul. Arizona has a clean elections law that rewards candidates who promise not to take money from special interests. Just this week, the court told Arizona that the state couldn't distribute matching funds under the program because it might violate the First Amendment rights of one fringe candidate named Buz who refused to take part in the system.

Actually, the First Amendment rights under consideration are not just Buz Mills', but those of every individual or group wishing to express their advocacy for Buz Mills by giving him campaign donations (which, under the Clean Elections Law, trigger matching dollars to each of his competitors, none of whom have to cope with the bureaucracy imposed on non-participating candidates). Also, the underlying lawsuit has nothing to do with Mills, but rather with a politician with an even funnier name–Dean Martin. Who, by the way, is participating in the Clean Elections system this campaign year even though he hates it, because it punishes non-participants.

Beyond all that, look at what Collins is doing–demanding that we "level the playing field" so that incumbent politicians have even more advantage over "fringe" outsiders who have access to money. If personal fortunes were all it took to win office, Collins' nightmare duo of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina might be running against Al Checchi and Michael Huffington.

Jacob Sullum on Arizona's law here and here.