Leading Campaign Finance Reformer: 'I Think the Constitution Is Wrong'


During a debate yesterday, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) had this to say about Citizens United v. FEC and other Supreme Court decisions overturning restrictions on political speech (emphasis added):

No one has fought harder for campaign finance reform in the United States Congress [than] me. I've come put for public financing of campaigns. I've come out for restrictions on campaigns. But here's the problem: We have a lousy Supreme Court decision that has opened up the floodgates, and so we have to deal within the realm of constitutionality. And a lot of the campaign finance bills that we have passed have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I think the Constitution is wrong. I don't think that money is the same thing as human beings. I don't think money equals free speech. I don't think corporations should have the same equality as a regular voter in this district.

McGovern probably meant to say, "I think the Supreme Court is wrong" (just as he probably meant to deny that a corporation, as opposed to money, "is the same thing as human beings"). It is a revealing slip in any case. McGovern clearly is frustrated by having to "deal within the realm of constitutionality." Too bad. That's what the Constitution is for: to frustrate politicians who are so focused on the virtue of their goal that they cannot see the rights they are violating by pursuing it.

I'll have more on that subject in the December issue of Reason. In the meantime, is McGovern right that Citizens United "opened up the floodgates"? The evidence to support that view is thin. But it is telling that critics of Citizens United from the president on down insist on comparing a less restricted political debate to a deadly, disastrous deluge.