Supreme Court

Must You Be a Republican (or, God Forbid, a Romney Fan) to Defend Freedom of Speech?

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Writing in The Huffington Post, Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) responds to a column in which I argued that super PACs are making politics more competitive. Price, whose concerns about the "undue influence" of such groups I quoted in the column, does not really address my argument. Instead he cites dollar figures for independent spending, vaguely suggesting that politicians—not him, of course, but other politicians—are bound to be corrupted when so much money is being spent on messages aimed at influencing voters. He notes that Mitt Romney locked up the Republican presidential nomination despite lukewarm-to-hostile feelings toward him within the party's base, an outcome he attributes to the $46.5 million spent by the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. But Romney, who was deemed the front-runner from the outset, had additional advantages, including his experience in the 2008 race, his well-developed organization, and the $90 million or so spent by his own campaign during the primary season. Indeed, as I noted in my column, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich—two challengers who presented themselves as conservative alternatives to Romney—were able to stay in the race longer than they otherwise would have thanks to independent spending by wealthy supporters. If either of them had sucked a little less, he might even have lasted as long as Ron Paul.

After complaining that Big Money prevented conservatives from picking a GOP nominee they perceived as one of their own, Price worries that "wealthy conservatives" are determined to deliver the general election to Romney by spending whatever it takes. If they have that kind of power, why didn't they use it to nominate someone more to their liking? Perhaps sensing the contradiction, Price immediately pivots to a personal attack, suggesting that I am carrying water for an "alliance of wealthy conservatives and special interests" because they help to pay my salary. "On the same day Sullum's column was published," he ominously notes, "an alliance of conservative groups announced a plan to spend $1 billion in an attempt to dictate the outcome of the general election. Prominent members of the group include the Koch brothers—who also happen to be major donors to the foundation that funds Reason magazine, a fact Mr. Sullum did not disclose in his fortuitously timed column."

I'm not sure how "fortuitously timed" my column was. It was first published here on March 14, two and a half months before the Politico story about anti-Obama spending to which Price links. That was when Creators Syndicate distributed the piece to the various outlets that carry my column. Later a slightly revised version appeared in the June issue of Reason (which came out in late April) and as a result got cycled back to the website on Tuesday, which I guess is when Price happened to notice it. In any case, I am no fan of Mitt Romney, and I am inclined to think we'd be better off if Obama were re-elected, provided he faces a Congress controlled partly or entirely by the opposing party, than if Romney were elected along with Republican majorities in both houses. 

Although Price seems to think I play for the Red Team, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Republican, and I am puzzled by his assumption that campaign finance regulation has to be a partisan issue. The beauty of freedom of speech is that anyone can exercise it, regardless of affiliation or ideology. The same Supreme Court decision that let businesses say what they want about politics allowed labor unions to do the same, and it simultaneously unmuzzled nonprofit advocacy groups of every political stripe. Rich progressives such as George Soros and Peter Lewis are just as free to spend their own money on political messages as rich conservatives such as Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess (and always have been). The super PAC that brags about pushing Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) into retirement, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, also helped former El Paso City Councilman Beto O'Rourke defeat another complacent incumbent, Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), in a race that Mother Jones called "a classic case of an up-and-coming insurgent taking on the machine."

When Price talks about the "undue influence" of "outside groups," he presumably is thinking of people whose opinions differ from his. Likewise, although he says people who spend money on anti-Obama or pro-Romney ads are trying to "dictate the outcome of the general election," I doubt he would say the same thing about people who spend money on pro-Obama or anti-Romney ads. Because I am not a member of any party, it may be easier for me to perceive a truth that eludes Price: In all of these cases, there is no dictating; there is only persuading, a process the Framers wisely put outside the control of censorious politicians.

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  1. I’ve met him a few times. If you look Price in the eyes you can see a hammer and sickle embedded in each pupil.

  2. I’m a member of an outside group: Voters with no party affiliation.

  3. Altough (sic) Price seems to think I play for the Red Team

    It is inconceivable to moron partisans for you to not be on TEAM RED or TEAM BLUE. They are too stupid to understand not being on either team. They do not have the capacity to think outside TEAMs; that is why they are partisans.

    This type of mischaracterization will never, ever stop.

    1. It’s simpler than that. If you are not on Team BLUE, you are necessarily on Team RED. Because statists can’t imagine a world in which one doesn’t go to bat for one or the other.

      1. Well, there’s that and there’s “you hold some views that are supposedly my TEAM but the views you hold that are supposedly the other TEAM cancel out the ones you hold with my TEAM because if you are one drop the other TEAM you are 100% OTHER TEAM”. Or something like that.

        It’s unbelievably stupid.

        1. It’s beyond stupid. Politically, both teams engage in determining the political makeup of individuals via the one drop rule.

  4. The Kochs’ billions backed Bachmann, but how far did that get her?

    1. Ross Perot spent bajillions of his vast, personal fortune in 92… Forbes, gazillionaire, accused many times of buying the presidency is but a footnote in electoral politics…

      Maria Cantwell, (D) Washington, spent large sums of her personal fortune on her campaign and actually won, then demanded we “get the money out of politics” when she got elected. So, in her case, the money was well spent.

  5. “an alliance of conservative groups announced a plan to spend $1 billion in an attempt to dictate the outcome of the general election. Prominent members of the group include the Koch brothers?[pause for effect] who also happen to be major donors to the foundation that funds Reason magazine, a fact Mr. Sullum did not disclose in his fortuitously timed column.”

    Jesus… I actually heard ominous music after I read that.

    1. how typical. Like most leftists, Price is neither able nor interested in offering a counter-argument, only in ascribing sinister motives to anyone who dares disagree with him. He was a self-righteous dick when I lived in NC and remains one today.

      1. Did Price make sure to prominently disclose that, as a sitting politician, competitive elections would put his job, power, and money at risk?

    2. True story, I saw some leftist bitch on a talking heads program on one of the 24 hr news networks (don’t remember which one) talking about this stuff, and she actually leaned in to the camera and roller her eyes when she said, “Koch bros.”. Like it’s an inside joke or a dog whistle; you know just from their involvement that something must be evil, regardless of what it is. They could be running a “Save the Puppies!” campaign, and she would ascribe sinister motivations to it.

      1. That sounds waaayyyy too much like PBS. Are you sure you weren’t on some PBS affiliate?

  6. and I am inclined to think we’d be better off if Obama were re-elected,

    Wish granted!

    1. Yeah, I’m thinking Jacob will be voting for Obama (again?).

  7. Of course money buys elections! Just ask Governor Meg Whitman and Senator Carly Fiorina.

    1. Or Former President Ross Perot and Senator Linda Mcmahon.

  8. May I, pretty please, call this power-worshiping Price a fascist?

    1. C’mon wef, 7 syllables or more to log an appropriate insult. Don’t be lazy.

      1. Unless, of course, you’re calling Registration at Last a mo-ron.

  9. A-la John Edwards, we can only hope that somewhere in the near future, Price finds himself tied to the Campaign Finance stake, with an ambitious federal prosecutor holding a lit torch at the base.

    1. Ooo, Ooo, and throw in a hate/bias crime adjustment for some remark made in anger.

  10. When Price talks about the “undue influence” of “outside groups,” he presumably is thinking of people whose opinions differ from his. Likewise, although he says people who spend money on anti-Obama or pro-Romney ads are trying to “dictate the outcome of the general election,” I doubt he would say the same thing about people who spend money on pro-Obama or anti-Romney ads.

    When progressives do it, they are only educating the populace. Never mind, they get a twelve year run at the citizens where we learn such truths as WW1 disrupted a progressive golden age that has just started flourishing, Hoover ran the economy in the ground with laissez-faire policies, and FDR saved capitalism (all three items I learned in ninth grade history) before the citizens are at an age to respond to political ads from other sources; these dastardly things spread false consciousnesses to a populace that progressive wish only to educate.

  11. disrupted a progressive golden age that had just started flourishing

  12. Money is evil. It will whisper in your ear and make you think things.

    1. What does the money whisper to you, FoE? Does it tell you that Young Guns II is the greatest movie ever made?

      1. Were you not moved by the ghost horses who came to take a warrior back home to the Happy Hunting Grounds?

        1. They went down…in a blaze of glory…

          1. Can’t believe I saw that in a theater knowing how bad the first one was, but in my defense there was something with Julia Roberts in it in the next theater.

            1. You had to protect yourself. I completely understand.

              I saw Warlock in the theater.

              1. I remember that one. One guy I knew said there was a horror flick used in a class as a lesson in what not to do when making a B movie. It seems likely that was the one he mentioned.

                1. Are you sure it wasn’t Troll 2?

              2. Which is kind of funny when I think about it becaue he was a cameraman for this piece of crap:

                http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1745912/

                1. Wow, that looks exquisitely awful.

                2. a small group of friends and strangers struggle to survive against a ravenous creature from Cherokee myth in the Appalachian Mountains

                  Elizabeth Warren?

                  1. Hat tip to this sub-thread.

                3. Hey, I worked on a piece of crap like that…..you cant believe how much fun it is to make a bad movie.

              3. Bah!

                In the mid to late 80’s I saw both Krush Groove and Gymkata multiple times!

                In my defense the base movie theater would run them at midnight for something like $.50. Lots of us would head over to watch after the last gal at the enlisted club left with someone else.

  13. Although Price seems to think I play for the Red Team,

    though this might apply to the Reds, Team Blue seems far more likely to subscribe sinister motives to anyone who disagrees with it.

    1. Yeah — those being racism, homophobia, sympathy for neo-Confederate causes, racist neo-Confederate homophobia, or crypto-fascism.

      It’s like they’re preprogrammed with a select few responses that they dispense depending on what they’re being told, sort of like a primitive computer.

      1. much easier than having to make a cogent argument. It’s like The Terminator where the machine sifts through his list of possible answers before tossing one out.

  14. If Obama is reelected, he’ll probably consider this pink-leaning shitstick for the newly imagine Office of Electoral Ethics and Financing Permissibility.

    1. *Imagined.

  15. When Price talks about the “undue influence” of “outside groups,” he presumably is thinking of people whose opinions differ from his.

    No. He’s talking about anyone who isn’t a political insider or journo. He just can’t stand that I could (theoretically) start a Super PAC of my very own, solicit donations, and spread a political message OF MY FUCKING CHOOSING without first having to get permission my betters. He’s pissed that he, those of his choosing, or those who rely on him giving them inside access can no longer be editors of every political message that graces the American public.

    One cannot support free speech whilst simultaneously thinking citizens was decided wrongly.

    1. One cannot support free speech whilst simultaneously thinking citizens was decided wrongly.

      Price and his ilk go a step further – you are not merely “wrong” for disagreeing, you are probably evil, too, and hate children and puppies. Your character will become the focus of a counter-attack rather than your argument.

  16. He notes that Mitt Romney locked up the Republican presidential nomination despite lukewarm-to-hostile feelings toward him within the party’s base

    The too big reasons for Romney’s rise to the top:

    1) No other mainstream Republican in the race who could get past the press gatekeepers. Newt, Frothy, Paul, etc, got past, but were not mainstream. A few other mainstreamers like Huntsman were ignored by the press. And the best candidate of the bunch, Johnson was furthest from the mainstream and got next to zero press.

    p.s. Cain was mainstream and got the press, but his confusing rhetoric doomed him even before the womanizing.

    2) A LOT party bigwigs like Romney. Contrary to the media portrayal of the GOP as libertarian-lite, the party is still run by GHWB Republicans. And they love the GHWB clone who’s going to lock up the nomination in August.

    1. Postscript: Ever since Reagan the Republican nominee as always been everyone’s *second* choice. 2012 will be no different.

    2. I wonder if he’ll keep the skin job after the election, or just say ‘fuck it!’ and go full T Unit at the inauguration.

    3. “A few other mainstreamers like Huntsman were ignored by the press.”

      Huntsman got plenty of media coverage, despite having approval ratings similar to Johnson, since the mainstream media was pimping him out as the only “reasonable” republican.

  17. Comes with the territory, as I’m sure you, running dog lackey of the cigaret makers, know.

  18. Guys like Price just don’t trust anyone saying something without his approval. Fuck his saggy white ass with a red-hot cock.

  19. We need some undue influence from the outside to overcome the nearly overwhelming influence of those on the inside.

  20. Sounds like a really good plan to me dude. Wow.

    http://www.Data-Privacy.tk

  21. vaguely suggesting that politicians?not him, of course, but other politicians?are bound to be corrupted

    This is what always seems to be missing from such discussions. It’s all the evil PAC’s fault for spending the money, and the politicians who are influenced are somehow completely innocent.

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