Another Reason Not to Vote Jeb Bush—He Wants to Overturn Citizens United

Candidate who burned through $100 million would torch the First Amendment next


The enthusiasm is infectious. ||| Boston Globe
Boston Globe

Jeb Bush, the GOP presidential candidate who last polled north of double digits nationwide four months ago, who finished a distant sixth in the Iowa caucus behind a man who promptly dropped out of the race, and who has burned through more than $100 million in a vain attempt to convince voters that the third time will be the charm for Bush conservatism, is spending what one hopes are the waning hours of his spectacularly awful campaign arguing serially that political documentaries should be censored.

No, that's not how the former Florida governor phrases it (fans of restricting campaign finance almost never come to grips with the inevitable results of their prohibitionism), but it's the real-world application of reversing the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which Bush has advocated at least twice in recent days.

God help us. ||| Reason

"If I could do it all again I'd eliminate the Supreme Court ruling," Bush told CNN's Dana Bash today. (Uh, if you could do what again, exactly?) "This is a ridiculous system we have now where you have campaigns that struggle to raise money directly and they can't be held accountable for the spending of the super PAC that's their affiliate."

This was no momentary slip; Bush reiterated the idea on the hustings today, according to CNN: "The ideal situation would be to overturn the Supreme Court ruling that allows for…unregulated money for the independent and regulated for the campaign….I would turn that on its head if I could."

The case Bush would like to see overturned made legal an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary that under previous law could have—if it hadn't been successfully censored first—landed its producers a maximum of five years in prison under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which prohibited such "electioneering communication" to be aired too close to an election. Not even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who famously co-authored that law, dared to actually campaign on it during his presidential run, such was its deep unpopularity with conservative activists and intellectuals alike (including George Will, who was essentially libertarianized as a result).

Bush thus joins Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in wanting to see this important free-speech precedent overturned—Bernie because he loathes corporations and fantasizes that only campaign finance stands between us and progressive policy utopia; Hillary because she has a quarter-century track record of being objectively pro-censorship. Jeb? It's hard to avoid the conclusion that he's heavy into the market for excuses. Either that, or he's trying to secretly outdo his brother Neil in sullyling the family name.

Some related Reason reading: "Our Presidential Cycle Shows Why Citizens United Was Decided Rightly," and "You Are Now Free to Speak About Politics."