I have to admit, in the three years I’ve been posting on this blog about campaign finance issues, it seems like I’ve been yelling into a well. Being an opponent of “campaign finance reform” is often a lonely place – I feel like an attractive girl at a Star Trek convention.
It makes sense that campaign finance reform isn’t exactly the type of issue that moves people – mostly, because the rules for political speech are so arcane and confusing, it’s too difficult to untangle it all.
Thus, it is gratifying to see the U.S. Supreme Court strike a blow for freedom today by removing many of the limits on political speech that have accrued over decades – most recently, under the McCain-Feingold law as enacted in 2002. (If you really feel like blaming George W. Bush for something, blame him for signing that abomination into law. Ironically, it was his own Supreme Court appointees that struck down this law he signed.)
The ruling eviscerates much of the limits on so-called “express advocacy,” where citizens band together and pay for ads in support or in opposition to political candidates. The more campaign activity we have, the more citizens will be informed about candidates and campaigns – leading to more vigorous debate over our elected officials.
This recent Supreme Court decision also certainly kills a bill working its way through the Wisconsin Legislature that would have placed even more strict limits on political speech. In 2008, I showed up to debate Senate bill authors Mike Ellis and Jon Erpenbach, who clearly didn’t even know what their own bill did, and how it related to past Supreme Court opinions. The event was sponsored by Common Cause Wisconsin, and it was fairly clear I was the only one in the room who considered campaign spending to be free speech. You can watch it here.)
Rather than lay out all the arguments we’ve made over the years, feel free to peruse the “Campaign Finance Reform” section over there in the right column. So-called campaign finance reform advocates will kick and scream over what the Court did today, citing “corruption,” but now U.S. Citizens will me more free to speak their minds come election time. For years, Congress has been doing to free speech what they’re trying to now do to health care. It’s just that nobody noticed.
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