Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Union: Campaign Finance

Last night, the President stated:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.

I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people.

He received much applause from the floor, but earned a quiet "Not true" from Justice Alito.

Laying aside the issue of trying to intimidate the Justices and whether corporations are politically "people", there is a simple flaw in the President's argument. He fails to acknowledge the behavior of national and state parties and associations in crossing state and district lines respectively to imbalance elections. Imagine a scenario where House candidates only receive funds and volunteer assistance from within their district, and where Senate candidates only receive funds and volunteer assistance from within their state. This is a fantasy, far removed from the truth of how campaigns are financed.

Let's face facts. The national parties are special interests in local and state races. Out-of-state corporations and associations are "foreign entities" under state laws. We have the fundamental rights to associate and to petition our government for redress of grievances. (Together, these rights allow us to try to get our candidates elected--the ultimate opportunity for redress of grievances.)

It is hypocrisy to point out the mote in someone else's eye and ignore the log in your own. If you want to clean up campaign finance, examine out-of-state and out-of-district contributions. By definition, that means that you are examining foreign contributions.

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