Campaign Finance

The Blatant Hypocrisy of Campaign-Finance Regulations

If Citizens United is a problem, so is The New York Times.

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The New York Times has been roundly and deservedly mocked for its shocking expose of Marco Rubio's run-ins with the law. According to the story, the Florida senator and his wife have "had a combined 17 citations" for traffic violations over the past two decades. A whopping four of them were his.

Lumping the two of them together to produce a bigger number invited parody, which Twitter supplied in abundance ("as a group, Marco Rubio and Colombia are responsible for 90 percent of the world's cocaine production"). So did dredging up old driving offenses, which led wiseacres to wonder what other skeletons are hiding in Rubio's closet: tearing the tags off old mattresses, maybe? Finally, the story drew comparisons to Chappaquiddick, in which Sen. Ted Kennedy drove a car off a bridge and left behind campaign volunteer Mary Jo Kopechne to drown. "If Rubio would just go ahead and kill someone with his bad driving, maybe they'll call him the 'Lion of the Senate' one day," tweeted Mark Hemingway, a writer for The Weekly Standard.

But wait—this is not even the most embarrassing part. An enterprising reporter for the Washington Free Beacon dug around and discovered that American Bridge, a liberal PAC, had pulled up the Rubios' traffic histories shortly before the Times story ran. The Times insisted that it had not relied on Democratic opposition research and had thought up the story all by itself. But the paper's ombudsman conceded that the issue also had come up before, regarding reporting on the Clinton cash machine, as well as in a story about one of the Koch brothers, for which American Bridge also supplied a key detail.

And that leads us to an interesting question about campaign finance law.

Like any self-respecting liberal outfit, The New York Times thinks the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United was an atrocity. The case revolved around whether the government could forbid an incorporated group, Citizens United, from broadcasting a movie critical of Hillary Clinton in the days leading up to an election.

Given the obvious free-speech implications—could the government also ban a book? yes, said the government's lawyer—the high court ruled that the law being challenged violated the First Amendment. Even dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens conceded "we have long since held that corporations are covered by the First Amendment," but he thought the campaign finance law being challenged should take precedence.

That law was the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which prohibited "electioneering communications"—those supporting or opposing political candidates—by corporations and labor unions 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. But it contained a whopping exception for the media, by exempting electioneering communications "appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial."

The exception amounts to a confession of what those who condemn the influence of money in politics deny: that campaign-finance laws infringe on freedom of speech and the press. After all: If they did not do so, then there would be no need for an exception. Proposals to amend the Constitution to overthrow Citizens United also contain specific exceptions for the media.

The question is: why?

Reformers do not like "outside groups" horning in on political contests.

Indeed, just the other day Bernie Sanders said he thought it was "totally absurd" that "anybody can start a super PAC on behalf of anybody and can say anything" about a political candidate. Well, who says more about political candidates than the media do? Why should they be allowed to do so, when other corporations—such as Planned Parenthood, the NRA, and the League of Conservation Voters—should not?

The New York Times has an answer: Because we're special. "It is not the corporate structure of media companies that makes them deserving of constitutional protection," the newspaper proclaimed in a 2012 editorial. "It is their function—the vital role that the press plays in American democracy—that sets them apart." Unlike dirty little interest groups and super PACs, the media are the lofty facilitators of a grand national conversation. They are, as the High Court said in New York Times v. Sullivan, the embodiment of America's "profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open."

Contending that open debate requires shutting down all non-media corporate voices is an oxymoronic non sequitur. But never mind that. The Times' recent story on Rubio's traffic tickets exposes how very un-special media companies are.

The newspaper simply used its megaphone to parrot a talking point crafted by a liberal interest group. Its functional role was no different than the role played by American Bridge. Both of them shared information that might shape voters' opinions about a presidential candidate. (And likely for the same reasons.) Just as it did by reporting on the sometimes sketchy financing of the Clinton Foundation. And when it reported on a possible affair between presidential candidate John McCain and a lobbyist.

The Washington Post has done similar things, as when it reported that Mitt Romney was a bully in high school and that Rick Perry used to go to a hunting camp where a racial epithet was painted on a rock. And those newspapers are, ostensibly, objective.

Other media—from Salon to National Review—are proudly partisan, and can have just as big an impact on elections. Remember: It was the left-wing Mother Jones that released the infamous video of Romney talking about the "47 percent." How did it obtain the video? According to a subsequent tick-tock, "Early on in the election season, Mother Jones had made a decision to look closely at Mitt Romney's record as a businessman"—and, well, one thing led to another.

So Mother Jones was digging up dirt on politicians to share with the public, just like other media and political organizations. It also released the 47-percent video on Sept. 17, 2012, well within the 60-day cone of silence imposed by campaign-finance laws. In short, it did exactly what the group Citizens United wanted to do with its Hillary Clinton video.

Nobody has been able to articulate a logically coherent reason to explain why some corporations should be allowed to spread information about a candidate while others cannot.

If campaign-finance reformers want to stop corporation electioneering communications, then they should start with the biggest incorporated communicators of all: the media. Force them to stop making endorsements, disclose their subscriber lists, file reports with the FEC—the whole lot. If they aren't willing to do that (and let's hope they aren't) then they should leave everyone else alone.

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  1. what other skeletons are hiding in Rubio’s closet: tearing the tags off old mattresses, maybe?

    Bart… let us handle the jokes.

  2. “It is their function?the vital role that the press plays in American democracy?that sets them apart.”

    I was amused when the press– especially the New York Times publicly imagined themselves as the gatekeepers of Democracy.

    Now it annoys me. Because they actually believe it.

    1. It is a mistake to think that they “believe” anything, besides that they want more power.

      Anything they say is simply a tactic to procure power. Any correspondence to reality is entirely incidental and irrelevant to them.

  3. Hinkle, you miss the best part. Not only is the Times a corporation who endorses candidates, but also they endorse candidates after said candidates’ foundations donate $100,000 to the Times’ charity campaign.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/…..68733.html

    The Times not only endorses candidates, it’s endorsements appear to be for sale. They are special alright.

    1. So did Shrill train them, or the other way ’round?

    2. Do those donations help offset the Times‘s corporate income tax liabilities?

  4. “[…]Nobody has been able to articulate a logically coherent reason to explain why some corporations should be allowed to spread information about a candidate while others cannot.[…]”

    Hardly anyone has squared a circle either, and for the same reason.

  5. I’m live and let live. I usually don’t reject a person based on their political views, but views on Citizens United is an exception to that. If you spout off against it (probably without even knowing what the ruling was about), get out of my face. You’re not a person who values free speech.

    1. If you spout off against it (probably without even knowing what the ruling was about), get out of my face.

      Citizens United was about the govt banning a movie. The govt argued it could also ban books. I make those two points explicitly clear, then wait for a response.

      1. I employed this tactic successfully. Against a room full of leftists. I also quoted the first five words of the 1st Amendment. That helped too.

      2. It also causes consternation when you point out that the local Democrat club is a corporation, and probably has more assets than Citizens United.

  6. It is more than a bit ironic for a bunch of self proclaimed collectivists to claim that freedom of speech doesn’t apply when people act cooperatively. Of course they are just hypocrites wanting to shut up their opponents. That, however, doesn’t make it less funny to listen to them prattle on about how you have freedom of speech just so long as you don’t form some evil association with someone.

    1. The peoples’ right to speak with their unamplified voice in a public square of the government’s choosing, shall not be infringed.

    2. It is more than a bit ironic for a bunch of self proclaimed collectivists to claim that freedom of speech doesn’t apply when people act cooperatively.

      That’s not what they claim, or they would have to claim that the New York Times is exempt in spite of being people acting cooperatively, and then carve out an exemption to the exemption for Fox News. They are hypocrites of the first water, plain and simple.

      1. Yeah, I’m willing to bet that plenty of left wing “jurists” are thinking of precisely that: how can we make an exception for Fox News?

        I think a few notable lefty “journalists” have even published articles on that topic.

  7. Nobody has been able to articulate a logically coherent reason to explain why some corporations should be allowed to spread information about a candidate while others cannot.

    Progs don’t do logic. Remember, logic is a tool of the evil cis-hetero-shitlord patriarchy. The progs feel that left-wing media outlets are different and special; that’s the end of the discussion as far as they’re concerned.

  8. I’d like to see the NYT and the prog wankers explain to me exactly what “the press” is and who decides whether or not a corporation qualifies as such. Not because the explanation would make any fucking sense but because it would be amusing.

    1. I’m pretty sure it would involve the staff having journalism degrees from Columbia.

      1. ^^ Thith

        /MHP

      2. I’m pretty sure it would involve the staff having journalism degrees opinions from Columbia.

    2. They would say that is something that comes from long ago and is being cherished and nurtured by the current managers, in the same way that the lord of Downton Abbey conserves his estate and all the people who live in the village.

      The way they would describe it would be absolutely feudal, as if the privelege had been inherited from an ancient aristocracy. Progressivism as a system is suprisingly feudal, with everything being directed by the “smart people” on top, where they take care of the proletariat who faithfully serve the group and dance and sing when invited. The “smart people”, of course, have “smart children” who assume the mantle of duty when they reach majority, just like the sons of the aristocracy became knights and dukes and barons in the old days.

      Think back to the days after the Republicans took back the house, and how they screached about how the House was going to defy the President who had been elected by the people. They wanted a king – they wanted King Obama – and no group of simple legislators was going to stand in their way.

      It is truly frightening.

    3. Or, what does it mean to campaign for someone? What, exactly, is or isn’t political speech? Whatever the special prosecutor arbitrarily decides?

      Funny, considering how much these idiots like or use the word ‘nuanced.’

  9. Nobody has been able to articulate a logically coherent reason to explain why some corporations should be allowed to spread information about a candidate while others cannot.

    “Some organizations have the correct information about the candidates.”

    I actually attended a League of Women Voters meeting wherein they voted to denounce Citizens United because corporations should not be able to publish information on candidates. Then they drafted a CU position statement to be published in their voter’s guide.

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  11. Very interesting approach, Mr./Mrs. Hinkle, thanks. I probably wouldn’t’ve thought of connecting those thoughts.

  12. Those evil Koch Bros are giving money to organizations trying to end Obama’s racist war on drugs !!!

  13. “Proposals to amend the Constitution to overthrow Citizens United also contain specific exceptions for the media.

    The question is: why?”

    BFYTW.

    The Progressive Theocracy largely controls the media. Hence, it should be free.

    Corporations that produce something other than propaganda are generally less enthusiastic about the Progressive Theocracy. Hence, they should not be free.

    It’s pretty simple.

    Empowering the Progressive Theocracy is good. Disempowering the enemies of the Progressive Theocracy is good.

    When you ask after their consistency, realize that they are *perfectly* consistent. Power for them good, power for their enemies bad.

  14. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
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