Campaign Finance

Watch Me Debate Super PACs With Stephen Colbert's Lawyer and George Soros' Son


Last Wednesday I participated in an Intelligence Squared debate about super PACs and campaign finance regulation. Although we did not exactly settle the issue, the level of conversation was far above what you typically see on TV or hear on the radio, especially when it comes to this topic, which tends to elicit a lot of passionate but ill-informed argument. In case you are interested in the subject but did not show up at the Kaufman Center in Manhattan or catch The Wall Street Journal's live stream, here is the unedited video:

My favorite tweet about the debate: "@jacobsullum is dressed in shades of yellow. Much different than the other debaters… What does that project?" My colorful personality, I hope, rather than cowardice.

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  1. If Colbert is a douche canoe, then his lawyer must be a douche aircraft carrier.

  2. Jacob, that is a seriously pimpin’ outfit. Well done. And that tie is…wow.

    1. In the screen cap the dude on the right looks like Ellen Degeneres.

      1. Dude, that is Ellen DeGeneres.

        1. This is actually kind of interesting. I don’t have two hours right now to watch this but they have it in a contest format. Should I skip to the end to see who wins?

          1. Sure, and then tell me. I have to write an aggregate query in the meantime.

            1. Is that what the kids are calling it now.

            2. Spoiler: In a nutshell they say the “against” won the debate. The way they score it is quite fucked up.

              Jacob, good way to get the message out, but man we have a steep hill to climb.

              1. nah

                Pretty sure that audience were all democrats.

                The fact that they all did not vote 100% for team Soros is actually hopeful.

                Seriously the soros kid started a superpac to stop superpacs…and you know his dad is the same guy who founded media matters, think progress and dozen other left wing political advocacy groups, and 5% of the audience were actually persuaded by this blatant hypocrisy.

                1. I’m curious as to why I should give a shit what Soros has to say about anything?

                  1. I’m curious as to why I should give a shit what Soros has to say about anything?

                    1. I’m curious as to why I should give a shit what Soros has to say about anything?

                      Because people listen to Soros, and if we want people to stop listening to him, we need to call him on his bullshit.

                      Note: What the hell, it got rid of the actual text from my previous comment!

    2. Thanks. It’s a Jerry Garcia: “Emerald City.” Not sure why he picked that name, since there’s no green in it.

      1. I thought as much! Found the same tie, an Xmas gift from the past, in my tie rack just now. The wife used to give me a Jerry tie each year. I’m not sure they still make them?

  3. Actually, the suit makes you look like you should have been a contestant on The Dating Game with Jennifer Granholm.

    1. I don’t know who the fuck was saying she was cute. She wasn’t. Even at nineteen.

    2. I keep going back to that Granholm video and I have a confession. In the early/mid eighties I dated a girl that looked a lot like Granholm but sans the super-big hair. Although she may have even had the big hair and I’ve just chosen to forget.

      I’d post her facebook page if I had no sense of propriety just to see if everyone agrees.

      1. Oh geez, I just went to her facebook page. She kind of has big hair now.

        Ok, ok, I find her kind of attractive for a white girl in a roll-in-the-hay kind of way. Get off me.

      1. That’s almost like a Priscilla Presley in a Naked Gun movie kind of look, like in the middle of a gag

      2. Probably just the make up they cake on for live stage TV in the late 70s…but yeah for 19 she sure looks used up.

  4. OT – Thomas Friedman is on Jeopardy tonight – at the first break he’s in the hole.

    1. Shorter Thomas: DERP

    2. The questions must be easy.

      1. It’s some sort of celebrity version for “power players.”

    3. Wolf Blitzer finishes with -$4600 on Jeopardy. Ironically, Trebek gave him a $5600 bailout so he could play Final Jeopardy.

    4. Thomas Friedman being a retard isn’t news.

  5. Jacob:

    Did the ANTIs pair get a slightly bigger applause than the FORs?

    1. Go to the 1:47:35 mark for the results.

  6. Wisconsin judge strikes down Walker’s union bill, saying it violates the state and US constitutions. Apparently his argument is that a law pertaining to union workers violates freedom of association and it also violates equal protection because it doesn’t apply to police unions.

    I’ll ask first: what sewer did they fish out Wisconsin state judges from? This is like the third time they’ve struck down the law based on ridiculous premises.

  7. Lets put elections back in the hands of individuals.
    No candidate for the Presidency or either house of Congress shall accept contributions in cash or in kind from any organization or group of persons for expenses incurred in a campaign for that office. All such contributions shall be made only by individual citizens who shall attest that the funds or other items of value are from their own resources and that they have not received, nor have they been promised, offsetting items of value from any other party in exchange for their contribution. The identity and extent of contributors to such campaigns shall be made public for a period of thirty days from receipt before being employed or used as collateral for a loan by such campaigns. Organizations of any type, {i.e. corporations, unions, gun rights advocates, environmental protection groups, even “Susie’s Flower Shop”, a theoretical small business cited in the Citizen’s United Case,} may, without restriction, expend money to advocate a position on any issue before or likely to come before the electorate insofar as no candidate’s name or description is included in their expressions of advocacy.

    1. Cool story, retarded bro.

    2. Can we restrict people from copy and pasting retardalia in comment sections as well?

      Also, how about a law prohibiting half gay wops from making Futurama references in said comment sections?

      1. Announcer: You loved him as Bender the Offender! Now get ready to hate him as he threatens your sexuality in his new persona …The Gender Bender!

        [The picture is replaced with Bender in the tutu wearing a wig. He is lying on a bed kicking his legs back and forth and holding a pink phone.]

        Bender: [girly voice] I’m a real toughie!

        Announcer: Squaring off this Sunday versus Destructor!

        [The picture is replaced with Destructor talking into a red phone]

        Destructor: I will destroy you! [He hangs up then picks up again.] And stop calling me!

        1. See you at the fight!

        2. Jesus Episiarch, you are the best advertisement for your own demise.

          Let’s put it up to a vote:

          Should Episiarch, for his crimes against commenting, be burned at the stake in a black, smoky, greasy wop haze until he is dead?

          *raises hand*

          For putting you out of your misery you should totally leave me your guns.

          1. I prefer death by deep dish.

            1. The crowd has spoken.

              Democracy in action!

              TO THE PAN WITH HIM!

      2. Which half is gay, the front half or the back half?

        Or, the upper half, or the lower half?

        1. Oooh we hot ourselves a regular ol’ Plato here, just askin’ questions he is.

          You wanna git in the pan with im’, “heyzoos”?

  8. Strange American foods.

    1. I’ve got to say, the pasta and broccoli one is strange to me. I like pasta, I like broccoli, and they’d probably go well together (if done right), but as the only dish and nothing else? Who the hell does that? You’d need at the very least a meat dish to go with that.

    2. Mayo on fries is not an “American” thing. It’s fairly common in Benelux and I’ve seen it here in Germany as well. And “Cheese” is a strange American food? I could have understood if the person specific something like Velveeta. The British guy saying that American portions are “huge” has clearly never visited Germany.

      1. Yeah mayo, is much bigger in Europe. I happen to enjoy dipping fries in mayo, but I first discovered this in Italy.

      2. Salad dressing is also not a uniquely American thing.

        1. Neither is bacon and eggs. Or black pepper(?).

          1. Bacon and eggs for breakfast kind of is. Or at least that’s what Cracked tells me.

            1. No it isn’t. Bacon and eggs have always been essential parts of the “full English breakfast,” long before the Bernays ad campaign.

              1. So you’re saying Cracked lied to me?

                [Darth Vader]NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO![/Darth Vader]

                Curse you’re sudden but inevitable betrayal, internet humor site!

    3. I agree with them about American white bread. It’s foul.

      1. But why the hell are biscuits and gravy “weird?” Biscuits are good, gravy is good, biscuits and gravy are better. It just makes sense.

        1. Nope. Another disgusting southern dish that northerners only hear about on TV. Same with grits, okra and chicken fried steak.

          1. First off, southern food is always superior to northern food. Except for this food of the gods, of course. And really good clam chowder, which is served best on the west coast anyway, is also pretty freaking good.

            The only real advances in American food are coming due to the increase in Mexican immigration, came from the Asian invasion in the 70’s-80’s and from California.

            1. Based only on these comments it seems like whoever wrote the article has something against breakfast and really has no idea what they are talking about.

          2. I never groked biscuits and gravy until I went to college, where the cafeteria served them for breakfast. They were awesome. Even a shitty, overpriced cafeteria run by Aramark couldn’t ruin them.

  9. I think the real outrage about the Princess Kate pics is how blurry they are.

    1. Hot wife hanging around naked with her husband who helps her put on some sunscreen.

      Leave it to the British Royalty to see this as a bad thing.

  10. an hour and 40 min…

    Who won?

    1. The anti-side (anti-free speech) won. It was measured by taking a poll before and after the debate, and the anti side won more votes, apparently from people who started out undecided. Most of the audience started out anti, but under the rules this isn’t how the antis won – they won for getting a shift of votes in their favor.

      If I had to guess, I would imagine that the antis got their victory by monopolizing concern over corruption and vote-buying. The pros (pro-free-speech) probably lost votes by frequently minimizing the significance of corruption.

      If I may offer a criticism, a bit of judo would have been useful here – hammering home the point that the antis are relying of people whom they admit are susceptible to corruption to regulate what people can or cannot say.

      And it wouldn’t have hurt to emphasize that campaign speech regulation favors the rich, because the rich can buy legal advice to organize their speech in legal ways, while poor and middle class people lack the expertise in the law, and run greater risk of being fined for expressing their views on politics.

      1. I would have voted with the antis JUST because of Sullum’s outfit.
        JESUS CHRIST, no wonder we have no credibility. I know what he thinks. He thinks his dress makes a statement about liberty. What it actually does is scare the straights.

        First impressions?

  11. If there are three of you, shouldn’t it be called “Intelligence Cubed”? Or was one of the other guys a fucking moron?

    1. A triumvirate

  12. Sullum….smile.

  13. Love the fact that the Soros spawn has a super PAC to fight super PACs.

  14. Sullum is not impressed.

  15. “None of us believe that our government should be free of criticism, but”

  16. So because Teddy Roosevelt took money from corporations for his election and then rebuffed those same corporations after he won, we have proof that corporate donations are bad?

  17. Oh, NIXON BAD!!! I get it now.

    1. You know who else received money from corporations?

      1. Workers?

      2. Environmental activists.


        Community Organizers


        Abortion Doctors

        Union Thugs




  18. “I’m too dumb to know what I spend my money on” therefore, corporations bad!

  19. Sullum should speak slower. It will make him sound more epic and serious. I mean, who cares about the content, amirite?

  20. And Soros spawn is CEO of a Capital Management company? Oh, fuck money, my bad.

  21. Soros: “I’m going to pretend that the guy on my side said that super PACs aren’t bad”

  22. “There is more regulation about what goldman sachs guys can say to each other, than rules for super PACs. therefore, super PACs bad”

  23. “Here are multiple GOP examples of super PACs. And 1, and only 1, example of Dem super PACs”

  24. Sullum is still not impressed.

  25. “I assume secrecy is a problem”

  26. “transparency is not enough! all campaigns must be financed by public money!!!”

  27. I Made it through round 1, someone else has to pick it up from here.

    1. Basically, the argument boiled down to whether unlimited political spending increases corruption and whether this then justifies limits on free speech. The first part is really a moot point since, as Jacob implied, we can’t tell whether a politician’s actions are influenced by money that supports his campaign, or some other reason. I would have liked to see more actual debate on the second part, since most of the debate was the two sides talking past each other. The opposition stated that there have been other restrictions on free speech, to which Jacob replied that he didn’t support those restrictions. But that was just a few sentences at the end of the debate. So, really the crux of the argument wasn’t analyzed enough. Maybe if it had, Jacob would have been able to persuade more people.

  28. Just shows its an uphill fight. 63% came in against it and did not change their minds. Fewer people were undecided than before. I guess that’s ok but it also would have made me feel better if the number undecided had gone up (like maybe people were thinking).

    So 6% that were undecided changed their mind and voted against. Can’t remember if the For side lost 2% or gained 2%. I watched the first 50 minutes and thought the For side was doing a better job, have to watch the rest later.

    1. The For side gained 3%.

      The big loser was Undecided, which fell from 18% to 9%. So much for, “well I was against Super PACs going in, but the other side made some really interesting points?maybe I should go home and do some more research,” I guess.

  29. Trevor Potter kept pointing out that there are several politicians and lobbyists currently serving prison sentences for corruption, supposedly as proof that his side is not merely imagining problems where none exist. I wish someone had called him on that, because how is the fact that people committed crimes, were caught, and are now in jail an argument that we need more regulation?

    1. Yeah, that should have been a point for the pro side – “we don’t suffer for want of laws against corruption – these laws actually get enforced!”

      As for the idea of limiting contributions/expenditures to reduce the risk or appearance of corruption, “gosh, you might as well argue against big, arbitrary government on the grounds that it increases the risk and perception of corruption! Yet surely nobody here is a Tea Party government-basher?”

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