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John McCain, the Election, and the Future of Restrictions on Use of Money for Campaign Speech:

I think many (though by no means all) restrictions on the use of money for campaign speech violate the First Amendment. I'm one of the few people who thinks Buckley v. Valeo is basically right, and contributions can generally be capped but expenditures (including corporate expenditures, a matter on which I disagree with the Court's Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce precedent) cannot be. This means I'm not as critical of Sen. McCain's views as some of my conservative and libertarian friends are, but I certainly find much to disagree with in his views.

Still, let's be realistic: On the Court today, the liberal Justices are the ones who are most likely to uphold a wide range of campaign finance speech restrictions; Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer have even suggested that they would uphold limits on independent expenditures, which in my view would violate the core of the First Amendment. And the conservative Justices, including the moderate conservative Kennedy, are the ones who are most likely to strike down a wide range of such restrictions.

Perhaps McCain will appoint Justices who will end up being more likely to uphold such restrictions. But I'm pretty sure that he won't be a single-issue appointer on this matter. He's likely to appoint noted figures from the conservative legal movement, who are culturally and ideologically predisposed to be at least mildly skeptical of such restrictions, and likely to be (at worst) in the middle on this issue -- where O'Connor and Rehnquist mostly were -- and more likely where Kennedy, Alito, Roberts, and perhaps even Scalia and Thomas are.

On the other hand, I suspect that either Clinton or Obama would likely appoint noted figures from the liberal legal movement, who are culturally and ideologically predisposed to be open to such restrictions, and be where Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer are, or (at best) in the middle of this issue, where Souter has generally been. So my hesitation about many campaign finance speech restrictions is a reason to support McCain (despite my disagreement with him) rather than to oppose him. He's surely not perfect in my book, certainly not on this issue. But I think he'll be better than the alternatives, and to me elections -- especially general elections -- are all about the best option, not the perfect one.

Bob Sykes (mail):
Although suppression of speech has become a liberal monopoly, John McCain is one with the liberals on this, and he would readily appoint judges who would extend the range of suppressed political speech.

By the way, was the Alien and Sedition Act ever repealed? I know the Supremes upheld it. Or is it just in abeyance, waiting for Hilary or Obama or John or Ralph?
2.28.2008 4:04pm
Aultimer:

-- especially general elections -- are all about the best option, not the perfect one


Well put. I think the position McCain is just wed to the wrong/unconstitutional solution to a real problem that government should have some ability to solve.

Proposals of better ways to reduce the role of fundraising in daily politics from McCain-Feingold's detractors would be nice.

I like the UK system of free TV airtime (based on spectrum licensing as a taking from the soverign/people), but it might only work if that time is exclusive.
2.28.2008 4:06pm
Cornellian (mail):
So my hesitation about many campaign finance speech restrictions is a reason to support McCain (despite my disagreement with him) rather than to oppose him.

Not exactly on topic, but there's an interesting post over at Above The Law noting that McCain was not born in the U.S., thus asking whether he's a "natural born citizen," something constitutionally required to be eligible to be elected president. Probably not the most thoroughly explored corner of the Constitution, I would think.
2.28.2008 4:06pm
Cornellian (mail):
Although suppression of speech has become a liberal monopoly

Yeah, liberals are always on the front lines of those crusades against bad words in movies, TV shows and videogames and other threats to the social order.
2.28.2008 4:12pm
Mark Field (mail):

By the way, was the Alien and Sedition Act ever repealed? I know the Supremes upheld it.


Acts. Plural. The original Sedition Act expired of its own terms on March 4, 1801. The Supreme Court never ruled on its constitutionality, though lower courts upheld it. The Supremes did rule on the WWI Sedition Act and upheld it.

The Alien Enemies Act is, with some amendments, still in the US Code today.
2.28.2008 4:13pm
The Ace:
So when McCain proposes and signs a campaign speech code, you will be thinking, "man what a great vote I cast."
2.28.2008 4:13pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Jeez, Bob: The Sedition Act was never considered by the Supreme Court. It expired of its own force in 1801. Plenty of conservatives are willing to impose (or uphold) plenty of speech restrictions, and plenty of liberals are willing to vote against (or strike down) plenty of speech restrictions -- see this data on Supreme Court Justices as of 2002.

Even limiting the inquiry to political expression, conservatives are often willing to uphold certain kinds of restrictions on such speech, such as flagburning bans (and don't respond that flagburning isn't literally speech, since spending money isn't literally speech, either), limits on speech by government employees, content-neutral speech restrictions that also include political speech, limits on media rebroadcasts of intercepted cell phone conversations that relate to political matters, and so on. On campaign finance speech restrictions, the conservative/liberal divide is sharp. On speech restrictions generally, or even political speech restrictions, that just isn't so.
2.28.2008 4:14pm
Mark Field (mail):
Isn't the more interesting question whether McCain would appoint justices who would disapprove his attempts to game the system he himself set up?
2.28.2008 4:17pm
Cornellian (mail):
Perhaps McCain will appoint Justices who will end up being more likely to uphold such restrictions. But I'm pretty sure that he won't be a single-issue appointer on this matter. He's likely to appoint noted figures from the conservative legal movement, who are culturally and ideologically predisposed to be at least mildly skeptical of such restrictions.

Or, to put this another way, there may not be ANY candidates he can nominate that 1) agree that his position on McCain-Feingold is constitutional, 2) have some type of conservative judicial philosophy overall, and 3) are sufficiently well qualified to get confirmed by the Senate. He can't sacrifice #3, obviously and he'd have to be awfully fixated on #1 to place that over #2. So I'm guessing he'd probably go with #2 and settle for some vague words from the nominee about deferring to the elected branches, a sort of Alito-style conservatism.
2.28.2008 4:23pm
dll111:
Bong hits for Bob Sykes!
2.28.2008 4:43pm
Sebastian Holsclaw (mail):
"Yeah, liberals are always on the front lines of those crusades against bad words in movies, TV shows and videogames and other threats to the social order."

Well, there was the Parents Music Resource Center which was founded by Tipper Gore and received support from her husband Al Gore.

Then there is Hillary Clinton's campaign to censor video games.

Do they count as liberals?
2.28.2008 5:01pm
EV Fan:
EV for SCOTUS!
2.28.2008 5:17pm
mathgeek (mail):
Cornellian:

>Yeah, liberals are always on the front lines of those crusades against bad words in movies, TV shows and videogames and other threats to the social order.

Do Bill Clinton (communications decency act), Hillary Clinton , the gores and Joe Lieberman
count as liberals?
2.28.2008 5:20pm
Cornellian (mail):
Do Bill Clinton (communications decency act), Hillary Clinton , the gores and Joe Lieberman
count as liberals?


Lieberman is certainly not a liberal, at least on social issues and the Clintons aren't liberal on any issue - the only ideology they believe in is that they should have power. It just so happens that in their pursuit of power, they adopt liberal positions on certain issues, then discard, re-adopt, re-discard etc. as circumstances warrant. Think of them as the Romneys of the Democratic party. This is not an entirely bad thing - I have a positively Rehnquistian suspicion of people who think their ideology is received, eternal truth to which a changing world must always conform but the Clintons are hardly doctrinaire liberals. Ted Kennedy is a liberal.
2.28.2008 5:46pm
KenB (mail):
You go into an election with the candidates you have, not with the ones you'd like to have.
2.28.2008 6:17pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
mathgeek wrote:

Do Bill Clinton (communications decency act), Hillary Clinton , the gores and Joe Lieberman count as liberals?

Let's not neglect to mention Sen. Paul Simon (D. IL). The guy made a mini career out of threatening Hollywood movie studios over the violent content of films. I'd also suggest that it is "liberals" who are the ones itching to pull the trigger on the Fairness Doctrine redux.

Government regulation--or even threats of regulation--of content is, to me, the the most obvious "appearance of corruption". Regulating the content of political speech of some, while exempting the speech of others, just fails the smell test.

Perhaps it is my conservative nature, but I don't see restrictions on obscenity, "indecency", and depictions of mindless violence--and especially chidrens' access to such materials--as being in quite the same category as political speech. Of course, all the above can clearly be political speech, so the devil is in the details.

I also think that

Aultimer wrote:

Proposals of better ways to reduce the role of fundraising in daily politics from McCain-Feingold's detractors would be nice.

My thought has always been, that if corruption (or the appearance of it) is such a problem, then the more efficient solution would be to restrict the 1st Amendment rights of elected officials. If there is a federal problem, then it is the creation of the 2 elected members of the Executive Branch and the 535 elected members of the Legislative Branch. Why should the other 300+ million of us have our rights restricted?

There are numerous cases of government action (and inaction) creating problems, and the government's solutions to those problems too often entail restrictions on fundamental freedoms.
2.28.2008 6:23pm
MatthewM (mail):
There are speech restrictions and there are speech restrictions -- prohibitions on flag burning, the "seven dirty words", etc. are bad and should be deplored, of course. But they are a molehill next to the mountain that is McCain-Feingold. There is a quantitative and qualitative difference between laws that attack discrete and circumscribed forms of speech -- which a free society can live with -- and open-ended, broad prohibitions on core freedom of expression -- which no free society can tolerate. By restricting such core speech so broadly, McCain-Feingold radically damaged free expression in this country, more so than a million FCC dirty words regulations or pornography prosecutions could ever do. Remember this when evaluating the justices' positions on this issue.
2.28.2008 7:10pm
Jacob Berlove:
Professor Volokh,

In Randall v. Sorrell it was Justice Souter who was willing to uphold limits on independent expenditures, not Justice Breyer.
2.28.2008 7:30pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Jacob Berlove: I appreciate your point about Randall, but I had in mind Breyer's concurrence in Nixon v. Shrink Missouri, which Souter didn't join, as well as Stevens' dissent in Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (I), which Souter also didn't join. Randall involved total campaign spending limits, which struck me as a less constitutionally significant matter than limits on independent spending by outsiders to the campaign.
2.28.2008 7:56pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Great post, Professor Volokh. And like you, I think Buckley v. Valeo draws a very plausible line.
2.28.2008 11:08pm
Elliot123 (mail):
McCain has gone on and on about the corrupting influence of money on politics. Has anybody ever heard him provide a concrete example of how Senator X voted on some bill because contributer Y gave him money? Has he told us that he, himself, is corrupted and votes in accord with the wishes of his donors? Has he given us the name of a single senator who is corrupted by donor money? If he knows about all this corruption, has he referred any cases to the Justice Department with names and dates?

We have all kinds of general and abstract discussions about campaign finance, but where's the beef? Who took money? Who gave it? What vote was effected? How did it harm the rest of us? This shouldn't be too hard if it really is so widespread that we have to whittle away at free political speech.

Who did it? Kennedy? McCain? Reid? Durban? McConnell? Stevens..... Which of the 100 senators has become so corrupted that we need laws restricting speech? Do any advocates of McCain-Feingold know? Will they tell us?

Is it possible that all this is the result of group think without any backup? If not, then who did what?
2.28.2008 11:09pm
Mr. Liberal:
John McCain has admitted to being influenced by political donations earlier in his career. From Wikipedia:


McCain's upward political trajectory was jolted when he became enmeshed in the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s. In the context of the Savings and Loan crisis of that decade, Charles Keating Jr.'s Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, a subsidiary of his American Continental Corporation, was insolvent as a result of some bad loans. In order to regain solvency, Lincoln sold investment in a real estate venture as an FDIC-insured savings account. This caught the eye of federal regulators who were looking to shut it down. It is alleged that Keating contacted five senators to whom he made contributions. McCain was one of those senators and he met at least twice in 1987 with Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, seeking to prevent the government's seizure of Lincoln.

Between 1982 and 1987, McCain received approximately $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates.[117] In addition, McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators. McCain, his family and baby-sitter made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. After learning Keating was in trouble over Lincoln, McCain paid for the air trips totaling $13,433.[118]
McCain and some of his family at the September 1992 christening of USS John S. McCain at Bath Iron Works in Maine. Left to right, John McCain; his mother Roberta McCain; his son Jack; his daughter Meghan, ship's maid of honor; and his wife Cindy McCain, ship's sponsor.
McCain and some of his family at the September 1992 christening of USS John S. McCain at Bath Iron Works in Maine. Left to right, John McCain; his mother Roberta McCain; his son Jack; his daughter Meghan, ship's maid of honor; and his wife Cindy McCain, ship's sponsor.

Eventually the real estate venture failed, leaving many broke. Federal regulators ultimately filed a $1.1 billion civil racketeering and fraud suit against Keating, accusing him of siphoning Lincoln's deposits to his family and into political campaigns. The five senators came under investigation for attempting to influence the regulators. In the end, none of the senators were convicted of any crime, although McCain was rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for exercising "poor judgment" in intervening with the federal regulators on Keating's behalf.[119] Robert S. Bennett, who was the special investigator during the scandal, said that he fully investigated McCain back then and suggested to the Senate Ethics Committee to not pursue charges against McCain. Bennett, a Democrat who would represent McCain in the future for another matter, wrote years later in his autobiography that it was his opinion that McCain was not dismissed from the case because without him, the investigation would have solely been against Democrats.[120]

On his Keating Five experience, McCain said: "The appearance of it was wrong. It's a wrong appearance when a group of senators appear in a meeting with a group of regulators, because it conveys the impression of undue and improper influence. And it was the wrong thing to do."[119]

McCain survived the political scandal by, in part, becoming friendly with the political press;[121] with his blunt manner, he became a frequent guest on television news shows, especially once the 1991 Gulf War began and his military and POW experience became in demand.[121] McCain began campaigning against lobbyist money in politics from then on.
2.28.2008 11:29pm
Mr. Liberal:
Basically, the idea that lobbyists buying politicians is not a problem is totally implausible and based on ignorance. Where have you been in the last 8 years? Have you totally ignored all the corruption scandals that have plagued the Republicans when they controlled Congress?

Business does not spend large amounts of money lobbying unless they expect to get a return on their investment. Unfortunately, the return on these sorts of investments tend to be at the expense of either the general public or the competition or both.
2.28.2008 11:38pm
Mr. Liberal:
The Constitution is not a suicide pact. Corruption undermines the very core of our society. Spending money is not literally speech (and yes, that is relevant, even if not decisive!), and the First Amendment should be interpreted in a manner that keeps our nation intact with a minimum amount of corruption.

When our government is bought and sold to the highest bidder, we have an agency problem that changes the very nature of our government and society, and one that the founders, who designed the Constitution specifically to manage to agency problems, would not have anticipated.

This idea that spending money to corrupt government is free speech goes against both the original intent and the original spirit of the First Amendment.
2.28.2008 11:41pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Basically, the idea that lobbyists buying politicians is not a problem is totally implausible and based on ignorance. Where have you been in the last 8 years? Have you totally ignored all the corruption scandals that have plagued the Republicans when they controlled Congress?"

OK. What senator sold his vote? Who paid him? What bill?
2.29.2008 12:03am
Mr. Liberal:
How about MBNA (now owned by Bank of America) and the bankruptcy bill? Are you really so naive that you think they do not use their money for influence?

As has been noted, McCain admitted to being influenced by money in his lobbying regulators in the Keating Five scandal?

How about Duke Cunningham. Or Abramhoff. Now, granted, these are more blatant examples of corruption.

The bottom line, you are pretty naive if you think that profit-maximizing corporations give money to politicians with only the public good in mind.
2.29.2008 12:08am
Mr. Liberal:

OK. What senator sold his vote? Who paid him? What bill?


Furthermore, it is also flawed to think that an explicitly understood quid pro quo is the only problem.

It is human nature to feel grateful towards those who give you gifts.

Why do you think that salespeople often give their customers free gifts? Because people have an instinct to reciprocate. How do people reciprocate with salespeople who give them relatively small gifts relative to the transaction? They are probabilistically more likely to buy.

It really is ridiculous to allow our government to be corrupted for the sake of an excessively expansive, non-literal, and anti-originalist interpretation of the First Amendment. We are supposed to have a "government of the people, by the people, for the people" not a government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists.
2.29.2008 12:15am
Elliot123 (mail):
"How about MBNA (now owned by Bank of America) and the bankruptcy bill? Are you really so naive that you think they do not use their money for influence?"

What senators did MBNA pay off? What senators were bought for the bankruptcy bill? Who bought them? Name the corrupt senators. Name the people who paid them. Where's the beef?

I agree Cunnngham was a crook and he is now behind bars. It appears we had all the laws necessary to take care of him.
2.29.2008 12:28am
Elliot123 (mail):
"The bottom line, you are pretty naive if you think that profit-maximizing corporations give money to politicians with only the public good in mind."

Does anyone give money to politicians with only the public good in mind? Who?
2.29.2008 12:31am
db:
I'd like to point out the unbalanced nature of the current campaign contribution system. It is generally funded by corporations and organizations of one form or another. Most of the complaints are directed at this imbalance and the lack of attention paid by politicians to their true constituents.

There is nothing wrong with requiring that campaign contributions, political messages, etc. come from actual individuals, from their personal wealth. A corporation is a person only through convenient legal fiction. Disparate treatment of corporations and other business organizations are not unheard of. For example, there is a separate income tax code. So I see nothing wrong with preventing businesses from directly or indirectly contributing money or resources to campaigns. Note that this would include unions and special interest organizations.
2.29.2008 1:41am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Campaign finance regulation is the wrong too to fix the problem of government corruption, whether it is real or merely perceived. The vast--and mostly unconstitutional--power of the Congress to regulate, tax, and spend, is an irresistable magnet for people who want bribe an elected official into helping them feather their nests. If the federal government had no power to build bridges to nowhere &etc., there would be considerably less that an elected federal official could do for a CEO. And who is looking after all those employees of regulatory agencies?

It's also naive to believe the street is entirely one way. Isn't it at least possible that government officials use the power to tax, spend, and regulate to extort money from constituents? Many corporate executives would probably rather spend their company's money on bonuses for themselves, rather than on lobbying Congress. That could be why big companies give money to both parties. They don't dare do otherwise.

Everybody always assunes it is eeeevil corporations seducing and corrupting honest public officials. Campaign finance reform is Congress' way of saying: "Stop me before I kill again."
2.29.2008 2:36am
Aultimer:

Elliot123:

Does anyone give money to politicians with only the public good in mind? Who?


Many Americans of various stripes support candidates based on our view (however flawed) of the common good, rather than our self-interest. That you had to ask the question suggests you're not in that group. You might call it a pre-text, or self-delusion, or economically irrational, but I promise that many of us are sincere.
2.29.2008 9:13am
Andy L.:
Following up on the point raised by db, I've never quite understood the justification -- whether legal or policy-wise -- for giving non-individuals the same or similar free speech rights as individuals. Corporations, LLCs, labor unions, PACs, 527s, schools -- are all creatures of statute, created by the legislature with certain inherent restrictions. My point or question is, from whence comes the inherent right of non-people to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. (Oops -- scratch the "life" part -- that's right -- they're not alive.) Don't get me wrong, if the government decides to grant such rights of speech and property to non-people, it can certainly do so. My point is that I don't see the source of a strong, inherent right for corporations and labor unions, etc., to have such rights. How about, only living, breathing individuals have freedom of speech. Or put another way, the government may restrict the speech of every thing that is not living and breathing?
2.29.2008 10:57am
Mark Field (mail):
Andy, I agree with you. However, shortly after the Civil War, the Supreme Court decided that corporations were "persons" under the 14th A. As "persons", they are entitled to 1st A rights. I think that ruling is wrong, and that most of our campaign finance issues could be solved by overruling that decision, but for now it's the law.
2.29.2008 11:34am
Michael S. (mail):
There is currently an ongoing debate in Orange County Florida about the extent to which county government has the authority, if any, to regulate "hard" money contributions by juridicial business entities to candidates for local county offices. While part of the dabate centers upon state law and whether or not the state legislature by its statutory scheme has preempted local action to regulate campaign reforms, a significant part of the dabate centers upon federal limitations under Buckley, Randall and other Supreme Court decisions of similar import.

My question, which admittedly may not be framed as well as it should, is in essence the following: Is there any serious conflict with federal constitutional and statutory law that would preclude local governmental bodies from enacting ordinances limiting "hard money" contributions to only natural persons versus juridicial persons. The current debate in large measure is driven by the propensity for land developers to create LLCs for each of their individual projects. Come campaign contribution time, it has been standard practice for such developers to make contributions in their own names, and to then also make contributions in the same amount under the auspices of each LLC he/she has formed. In one notable instance, a developer wrote a check for $500 to a local candidate, and them immediately pulled out the checkbooks for his +10 LLCs and wrote out checks in the same amount to that candidate.

Question: Might someone be familiar with the relevant constitutional issues implicated by the above decisions to elaborate if business organizations such as corporations, LLCs, etc. can be precluded from making campaign contributions? Their individual employees would not be affected, but only the business organization itself as a juridicial entity? A subsidiary question would be if the genus of "business organizations" can be parsed such that some are permitted to make contributions and others are not? Once again, the miscreants are typically land developers and their propensity for forming LLCs at the drop of a hat.

Any thoughts, input, etc.?
2.29.2008 11:46am
Elliot123 (mail):
"Many Americans of various stripes support candidates based on our view (however flawed) of the common good, rather than our self-interest. That you had to ask the question suggests you're not in that group. You might call it a pre-text, or self-delusion, or economically irrational, but I promise that many of us are sincere."

I'm sure you are very sincere and are very sure your views are what is best for the public. However, is the guy you are giving money to only interested in the public good? Does he have any self interest? If so, he is not running only for the public good, and your money is not going only for the public good. Varying amounts of your money are going for the politicians personal good. If you know ths, then you know you are not contributing only for the public good.

However, if there is a politician who is in the game only for the public good, and has no personal interest in advancing himself, can we know who he is?

But since the topic was raised in connections with profit maximizing corporations who do not give only for the public good, how many individuals are in the same situation? How many are contributing because of the potential personal gain?

"Corporations, LLCs, labor unions, PACs, 527s, schools -- are all creatures of statute, created by the legislature with certain inherent restrictions."

Would you include political parties as one of those creatures?
2.29.2008 2:32pm
markm (mail):
Note that there are very few limits on unions contributing to political campaigns, but there are many limits on corporate contributions.
2.29.2008 3:15pm
Aultimer:

Elliott:

But since the topic was raised in connections with profit maximizing corporations who do not give only for the public good, how many individuals are in the same situation? How many are contributing because of the potential personal gain?


You're changing the question.

I expect that corporations would only act in self-interest - they have duties to shareholders that largely require it. That's a morally neutral fact. I think it immoral and unpatriotic, but perfectly legal, for individuals of substantial means to elect officials based on self-interest above the common good.
2.29.2008 3:25pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I think it immoral and unpatriotic, but perfectly legal, for individuals of substantial means to elect officials based on self-interest above the common good."

How about invididuals of less than substantial means? Is it immoral and unpatriotic for them to elect officials based on self-interest? Is there one set of morality and patriotism for those of substantial means, and another for those of less than substantial means? Maybe moral affirmative action?
2.29.2008 5:07pm
Steve2:
Professor Volokh, I was intrigued by the statement at the end of your paper about reasons why contribution limits would, even if constitutional, be a bad idea. I'm curious as to what those reasons are. Why would it be a bad idea to, for instance, have an amendment allowing states to cap spending on all races within that state, cap contributions accordingly, and limit contributions to direct spending by individuals only?
2.29.2008 5:45pm
kietharch (mail):
The day is approaching when we behold a constant campaign for the Presidency. The allure of that office seems to trump all other considerations of the candidates' personal life and, I think, finally, the public good.

Who benefits? the election industry and the media. The money drives the media. Do we know anything more about the candidates than we did six months ago? well we know a bit more about what the candidates want us to know. Just a little.

What has "free speech" accomplished? what have all the campaign contributions accomplished so far? does anyone learn anything from political ads?

I suppose you can argue that Obama would not have achieved his delegate count without all those contributions. But that is not clear is it? he may have done well with half the money.

I can't entirely blame the "campaign contributions equal free speech" argument for this condition, this relentless campaign. It's our society, our economy and, probably, our collective hunger for a story.

A time limit would be welcome.
3.1.2008 9:03pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"A time limit would be welcome."

A limit for what? Speaking on issues? Saying one wants to be a candidate? Setting up internet sites? Grandstanding in the Senate? Raising money? Criticizing the president?

If it's a limit on spending money, then we will be allowing GE, Viacom, Disney, Murdock, and NYT Corp to decide what we see and hear. Shall we muzzle them, too? No stories on people who might be interested in running for president until incumbent politicians think the time is right?
3.1.2008 10:26pm
kietharch (mail):
Elliot, your points are good. But we are experiencing a tiresome, useless and trivial bombardment that is, I argue above, destructive.
You seem to be saying that GE, Viacom, Disney, etc. are somehow counterbalanced by campaign ads. That is not convincing.

Other democracies do not seem to abuse themselves this way. I have read that the campaign for Prime Minister in Britain is about six weeks, tops. Japan, France, Germany I don't know. Canada, sad to say, may be "learning" from us.

A theory of law ("campaign contributions equal free speech") that has miserable and destructive consequences should to be reconsidered.
3.3.2008 1:09pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I agree campaign ads don't counterbalance the media because they are really each sitting on different scales. However, limiting campaign ads to a short period gives the media an open field in which they can sway positive and negative coverage as they see fit.

Whenever we limit one group, we shift more power to another. In the case of the campaign finance laws, we have shifted enormous power to GE, Viacom, Murdock, Disney, etc. Not only have we shifted power, but we have concentrated the power in fewer hands. Rich and powerful corporations can speak, while small advocacy groups are muzzled. Further prohibiting many groups from speaking while allowing a few to say whatever they want is not much of an improvement.

So, while I agree the everlasting campaign is inefficient, boring, and often quite meaningless, I can't figure out a better way to do it. I hope this campaign season will see such a burst of individual creativity on the web that we might just say all these regulations are actually useless.
3.3.2008 4:55pm