Friday, January 22, 2010

Money in politics

So yesterday the Supreme Court decided that corporations have a right to buy as many politicians as their cash flow allows in the interest of "free speech."

Here's how the good, honest government advocates at Common Cause responded:

"The Roberts Court today made a bad situation worse," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. "This decision allows Wall Street to tap its vast corporate profits to drown out the voice of the public in our democracy."

I don't doubt he's describing the real world. But it may surprise readers of this blog to hear that I also am no particular fan of campaign finance reform as it has usually existed.

I work in campaigns. Campaigns require money. Campaigns that anyone beyond the candidates gives a damn about attract money. Campaign finance law sets the rules for how that money will flow and be disclosed. Since there must and will be a money flow, campaigns then devote themselves to finding a way to do with whatever money might be available what they think they need to do without egregiously breaking the law. Campaigns become a full employment project for finance lawyers, accountants and other experts. Well-financed campaigns figure out how to get around the regulatory maze created by "reform." Outsider campaigns are far more likely to get dinged for sloppy reporting or lack of financial creativity. Does that help achieve democratic equity?

This video discussion of the Supreme Court's decision is much longer -- 22:45 -- than I usually post on this blog. And it is utterly worth watching in full. Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken has nuanced thoughts on issues of money and free speech. If she's right, the decision will almost certainly increase outright corruption in the form of lobbyists "ingratiating" themselves with office holders. But she also has some notions for a progressive fightback that I think we need to listen to. If the latest gift from George W. Bush's Supremes has you scared and pissed off, please watch this and think about it.

1 comment:

Kay Dennison said...

I have been livid since I got word
on this last night!!!!

I don't know this country anymore.