Saturday, October 29, 2011

Better to repeal campaign finance law than force donations to the black market

A recent protest supporting the 99% movement took place in Downtown Ferndale Friday, and it was covered by The Daily Tribune.

Nancy Goedert was quoted as saying public funding for campaigns is a soapbox issue for her, but I don't think Mrs. Goedert or others that like that idea have thought it through.

Publicly funded campaigns are a closely-related issue to corporate free-speech, and more specifically, corporate funding of campaigns.  But what protesters often forget is many of their favorite organizations, like, are also corporations that support both financially and otherwise, political campaigns.

As I wrote in February this year,
"MoveOn actually doesn't believe all corporations should be prohibited from free speech.  MoveOn.Org is itself a corporation--though a not-for-profit 501c3, and presumably wants to preserve free speech for itself.  What they must mean, then, is for-profit corporations should be prohibited from free speech, but that would include companies building green-products like wind turbines and solar panels, growing and selling organic foods, and other corporations that are in good standing with MoveOn."
Another complaint against corporate free speech is the amount of money donated, and the many ways corporate donations are hidden--being given to political action committees and other "issue" campaigns, is a by-product (read: unintended consequence) of current campaign-finance laws.  People, corporate or private, will find ways to support their candidates and causes either directly or indirectly.

Rather than create a black market for corporate donations by making direct contributions illegal, why not remove all the limits and let the donations speak for themselves and the candidates?

For instance, if Goldman Sachs wants to contribute $5 million to President Obama's campaign, wouldn't the public rather know that than have Goldman funnel those contributions through an array of grey-market PACs?  At least then we might now exactly who Goldman is supporting and to what amount the candidate may be obligated to return in favors--like bailouts for banks that are "too big to fail."

Or if local attorney-celebrity Geoffrey Feiger wanted to donate $125,000 to John Edward's campaign, instead of (allegedly) requiring his partners to make those contributions he could have made them directly himself and spared himself and everyone else a lot of time (and money) trying to figure out if what he did was legal or not.

The other problem with publicly funded campaigns is trying to figure out which candidates the funds would go to, and what money-raising restrictions would be placed on other candidates.

A lot of 99%ers complain about the failure and dominance of our (predominately) two-party system, but how much money would the government give to the Green, Socialist Workers, Libertarian, or Communist parties?  Should those parties be shut-out?  What of religious parties?  Mightn't contributions to their candidates' campaigns risk violating the so-called separation of church and state?

And who in the government would decide how much money to give to candidates, and how would that person or department be appointed or elected?

No, the better idea is to repeal campaign finance laws and let the public vote with their own dollars.  And if the public really wants to shut-down corporate free speech then they should look for a case to overturn  Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council.

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