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The Ol’ Bait-n-Switch II

[ 109 ] July 17, 2012 |

The nominal conservative argument on campaign finance is that allowing the wealthy the unrestricted ability to influence candidates is fine, as long as the donations are transparent. Leaving aside the dubious nature of the tradeoff, the problem is that conservatives don’t actually support the second.

Comments (109)

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  1. actor212 says:

    “Hey! It’s none of your business how I spend my money!”

  2. Larry Lennhoff says:

    allowing the wealthy the restricted ability to influence candidates
    Unrestricted ability?

  3. Eric says:

    I still don’t understand the rationale behind non-disclosure as expressed by Mitch McConnell: Rich people might get their fee-fees hurt by people who don’t like their donations to political groups.

    Doesn’t this apply to, well, everyone who donates to a candidate under current disclosure laws?

    • Cody says:

      Only if you’re too poor to do it through a corporation, right?

    • ploeg says:

      It’s worse than that: substantial numbers of people might decide not to buy the products that are produced by rich people’s companies if said rich people give to the wrong candidates. Rich people would then be just like civil rights activists in the south in the late 50′s, apart from the lynching, bombings, and all that.

    • TT says:

      Clarence Thomas is big on preserving the anonymity of rich donors. If you can’t stand the heat, then surely your money should keep you in the kitchen.

  4. Paul Gottlieb says:

    It’s interesting that Sheldon Adelson, one of the biggest contributor to the Romney campaign, derives a great part of his incredible wealth from a casino/brothel complex in Macau, and that complex, and the associated money flow exist only so long as the Chinese government permit it to. If Adelson annoys the Chinese government, he stands to lose an enormous amount of money. Thus does Citizen’s United and the complete lack of transparency in campaign finance open the door for foreign governments to start heavily influencing our elections

    • rea says:

      And in fact, he’s presently being investigated for massive bribery of Chinese officials.

    • Cody says:

      Well, at least China’s military is big enough to give us pause to invading. If it was someplace like Iraq that controlled Sheldon Anderson’s money flow, we’d be in another war!

      I can see it clearly, Chinese cut off his income. Romney is asked to invade China… but can’t because we might not win this war. Iraq cuts off his money, we can invade that!

  5. c u n d gulag says:

    Transparency is for peons!

    • Holden Pattern says:

      See also: rule of law, taxes, consequences for criminality.

      • Holden Pattern says:

        Let’s amend that last one:

        Consequences for criminality any kind of failure at all.

      • bradp says:

        See also: rule of law

        If rule of law is only for peons, what do you think will be the effect of instituting a new law?

        • Holden Pattern says:

          Because at least then, the big players will have to consciously hide what they’re doing, rather than enshrining in law the idea that our ruling classes are entirely beyond the law.

          Just like “looking forward not back” recognizably violated the idea of the law concerning war crimes.

          I’m just about as cynical as it’s possible to be, but I do recognize the value of at least having aspirational targets that our rulers fail to meet. This is where I differ from partisan team players — I don’t conform the aspirational goal to whatever my team captain happens to tell me he or she wants to do.

          • bradp says:

            There’s a lot wrong here, HP, but I’ll be brief:

            Contrary to your statement, the Disclose Act would enshrine into law abridgements to First Amendment rights that would be more harmful to the 1) marginal than the meanstream, 2) challenger than the incumbent, 3) poor than the wealthy, and would be of very little consequences to SuperPACs.

            • Holden Pattern says:

              Dude, you are so wrong in so many ways, it’s not even believable. Apparently you really do believe that those who own the country should run it, or at least buy those who run it… secretly.

              Anonymous donations by billionaires to pay for political campaigns is not the same as anonymous speech. MONEY IS NOT SPEECH.

            • Njorl says:

              I can see potential arguments (which I would find unconvincing)for 1) and 2), but your 3) is unsupportable.

              • bradp says:

                Fair enough on 3). It would be better to say it hurts organizations with less funding more than organizations with more funding.

                The disclosure requirements on adverts, accounting costs from possibly separating accounts to protect donor privacy, and possible legal defense spending will be a far larger hit to the margins of smaller advocacy organizations without easy access to funding, and the flood of exemptions and carve out will certainly be directed to those with huge lobbying funds.

                1) seems fairly convincing to me from the history of such laws being used against marginal and unpopular interest groups.

                And all of the limitations placed on when and how sitting elected officials can be mentioned in political ads makes 2) seem obvious.

                • efgoldman says:

                  SCOTUS has said:
                  Money = speech.
                  In a different decision (written, I think, by Scalia):
                  People who sign petitions (in reference to CA Prop 8) have no right to privacy. Their right (speech) is protected, their identity is not.
                  QED.

            • The problem is that there’s no First Amendment abridgment unless you agree with Sarah Palin that there’s a First Amendment right not to be criticized.

              • N__B says:

                I would disagree with her, but that would infringe on her 1st Amendment rights.

              • bradp says:

                The problem is that there’s no First Amendment abridgment unless you agree with Sarah Palin that there’s a First Amendment right not to be criticized.

                Wait, what? Aren’t you a litigator that kinda specializes in these things?

                Potentially forcing people to reveal their identity if they want to engage in unpopular political advocacy is absolutely a violation of First Amendment rights and that has been upheld by the supreme court.

                No one forced Sarah Palin to put her face and name behind her idiotic opinions, and it was her choice to put herself out there for criticism and reprisal.

        • Boudleaux says:

          Probably more asinine questions / comments from you?

  6. bradp says:

    Its a tough issue, and I’m kinda torn on it, but I don’t think FreedomWorks is particularly wrong. They are arguing from a fairly dishonest position, but Disclosure acts have been used repeatedly in the past to discourage and retaliate against political activity by marginal and minority groups.

    Does anybody think that, in practice, small donors would suffer far greater imposition from this law than big players?

    There is certainly a reason for disclosure when parties are trying to sway public institutions, but I fully expect this to be enforced inconsistently to pursue vendettas, rather than perserve any sort of transparency in our democratic institutions.

    • Murc says:

      Does anybody think that, in practice, small donors would suffer far greater imposition from this law than big players?

      Small donors are exempt from DISCLOSE. They retain their anonymity.

      And it’s a really generous definition of “small” too. I could give ten grand, which is one-fifth or so of the median yearly income of an American, and be entirely exempt and anonymous.

      Also, it’s a trade-off thing. You can’t just argue that a disclosure regime would be abused. Of course it will be. You have to argue that said abuses will be worse than the status quo or at least worse than other viable plans.

      • Holden Pattern says:

        But this is consistent with the libertarian view that all government power can be abused or corrupted, so let’s not have any government. In reality, of course, this has the effect of cutting out the government middleman which is at least theoretically accountable to ordinary people, and jumping directly to abuse by the most powerful private actors.

        However, since those private actors aren’t “government”, whatever they do is by definition not abuse or corruption — we’ve defined the problem away.

      • bradp says:

        Also, it’s a trade-off thing. You can’t just argue that a disclosure regime would be abused. Of course it will be. You have to argue that said abuses will be worse than the status quo or at least worse than other viable plans.

        Absolutely agree its a trade-off thing, but the article linked to seemed to dismiss one side of the trade off completely.

    • DrDick says:

      Jeebus you can be dense at times. Poor and minority contributors are already largely forced to disclose their contributions under existing laws. The laws in question only protect corporate and superpac donors, who are overwhelmingly billionaires. Only an infinitesimally small portion of moderate or low income people contribute to those and their donations are totally insignificant in the overall totals.

      • bradp says:

        More, less, or equally as dense as the ACLU?

        • Professor Know-It-All says:

          Why does Scott HATE the ACLU?

        • Njorl says:

          The ACLU frequently errs on the side of perceived threats to liberty. I find those errors acceptable in consideration of its greater body of work.

          • bradp says:

            perceived threats to liberty

            Does this mean you think that the ACLU’s perception is off in this situation?

            Is the Disclose Act not a threat to liberty?

            • Dr.Doom says:

              Does this mean you think that the ACLU’s perception is off in this situation?

              Is the Disclose Act not a threat to liberty?

              Brad,

              You’re asking very uncomfortable questions. Liberty necessarily diminishes when the role of the state increases and increasing the role of government is what LGM is all about. However, saying so out loud makes one look unpatriotic as a liberty hater.

              Please don’t put them in such an uncomfortable positions.

            • Uncle Kvetch says:

              Does this mean you think that the ACLU’s perception is off in this situation?

              Brad, Njorl can speak for himself, but I think the ACLU is way off-base on this. Their opposition to campaign finance restrictions is premised on the existence of a guaranteed minimum of public financing for qualified candidates, which is frankly utopian in the current political climate. If we had the minimal public financing that they advocate, I might be swayed by their argument, but since we don’t and likely never will, the rest doesn’t really hold up.

              They’re on the side of the angels in just about every other respect, but on this they’re just plain wrong. Quoth Holden: MONEY IS NOT SPEECH.

              • bradp says:

                Their opposition to campaign finance restrictions is premised on the existence of a guaranteed minimum of public financing for qualified candidates, which is frankly utopian in the current political climate.

                Where do you get this?

                • Hogan says:

                  Here, possibly.

                • Uncle Kvetch says:

                  Hogan’s link does the job, but just for the hell of it, here’s another:

                  “ACLU Testifies on Campaign Finance; Urges Senate Committee to Adopt Full Public Financing

                  Brad, were you honestly unaware of this?

                • bradp says:

                  Their opposition to campaign finance restrictions is premised on the existence of a guaranteed minimum of public financing for qualified candidates

                  Nothing in those essays supports that quote. I do believe the ACLU would oppose the Disclose Act regardless of the sentiments on publicly financed campaigns.

                • Uncle Kvetch says:

                  Nothing in those essays supports that quote.

                  We’re talking past each other here. I was talking about the ACLU’s overall stance on CFR, not their specific position with respect to the DISCLOSE Act.

                • bradp says:

                  We’re talking past each other here. I was talking about the ACLU’s overall stance on CFR, not their specific position with respect to the DISCLOSE Act.

                  Yeah, I’m familiar with their stance on CFR, but their opposition to the DISCLOSE Act stands on its own.

                  Personally, public financing of campaigns is an enticing idea to me, I just can’t fathom a way you could ever practically manage the effect intended.

                  Political spending is growing exponentially: Obama spent 740M in 2008, more than the combined totals of Bush and Kerry in 2004.

                  How do you bridge that gap where you are providing an equal chance at campaigning and advocacy, without also greatly stifling political speech?

                  And people keep repeating the mantra, “money isn’t speech”, but that’s problematic: What do you call all the money spent on issue and campaign adds? I can say “EBT cards aren’t food”, but that is only true in a very meaningless sense.”

            • Njorl says:

              I believe the freedom to anonymously spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections is a greater threat to liberty than the restrictions of the Disclose act.

              • DrDick says:

                I also agree with this. There is nothing in the First Amendment that protects you from any consequences of your speech. It only prevents the government from punishing you, within certain “reasonable” bounds, for speaking out publicly. Also, as Hogan and others have said, MONEY IS NOT SPEECH. I will also note that nobody, including Brad, has ever complained about campaign finance disclosure laws until it threatened to reveal the identities of billionaires and corporations who are trying to buy elections.

            • I won’t speak for anyone else, but I personally don’t have any problem with pointing out that the ACLU is batshit loony every now and then, and this is most certainly one of those times.

      • dangermouse says:

        Times like what? All the ones on the clock?

    • Dr.Doom says:

      Disclosure acts have been used repeatedly in the past to discourage and retaliate against political activity by marginal and minority groups.

      Of course they have…and that’s the real motivation of this proposal and it’s supporters. They want to use it to discourage and retaliate against those who wish to donate to the GOP.

      This ain’t rocket science.

      On the other hand, I would support this if we could name ALL contributors to all parties and PACS. With computer technology, information is cheap and recording this would be easy.

      Transparency for ALL!!

      Fuck YEAH!!!

      • bradp says:

        The NRA got an exemption the first go around, not sure about this time, but that kinda shoots your theory in the foot.

        This is about protecting their phony baloney jobs on both sides of the aisle.

      • Holden Pattern says:

        The current cutoff for donations to campaigns is very low. My real name is attached to every single contribution I’ve made to federal and state campaigns.

        The difference is that I’m not spending millions and millions of dollars to try to buy an election outright, so nobody gives a shit that I’ve contributed. Suddenly, when there’s a way for the big-money players to secretly buy campaigns, and disclosure might actually matter, then omigod-we-need-anonymity-please-protect-us.

        I thought conservatives were the proud tough individualist motherfuckers, but now when their commercial or reputational interests might be harmed by disclosure of their attempts to buy elections, suddenly they’re scaredy-cats who need secrecy?

  7. Murc says:

    The nominal conservative argument on campaign finance is that allowing the wealthy the unrestricted ability to influence candidates is fine, as long as the donations are transparent.

    I have seen many conservatives, including our own David Nieporent, argue forcefully that the wealthy should in fact have the ability to buy politicians completely anonymously.

  8. patrick II says:

    I don’t think the combination of unrestricted political contributions and transparency will ever work, but if you must transparency must come first. If unrestricted political contributions comes first, as it has, those contributions would stop the policy of transparency from ever being put into effect. Congress will be unable to pass a law lifting the curtain because of the flood of money already existing against changing that policy.

    This situation is only going to change with the appointment of a new more anti-Fascist Supreme Court justice, and re-electing Obama will give us the only chance at that.

  9. Dr. Lumpus Spookytooth, phd. says:

    The Citizens United case was a necessary decision by the Supreme Court because conservatives cannot keep up with the funding of the vast union machine. Furthermore, at least conservatives allow for choice in campaign contributions, union dues are forced campaign contributions. Secondly, I don’t think individuals should have disclose donations. The reason the democrats want the disclosure is so they can bloody private individuals on the news.

    • DocAmazing says:

      That’s a tough one–very Poe’s Law.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Don’t you remember – this is the nym that JenBob used for the big climate change denialism thread. So real troll, not parody troll.

        • Dr. Lumpus Spookytooth, phd. says:

          @malaclypse

          do you think unions members should be forced to donate to democrat campaigns?

          • Malaclypse says:

            Jennie,

            I think they should be forced to donate to this.

          • heckblazer says:

            Do you believe corporate profits should be donated to Republican campaigns against the wishes of minority shareholders?

            • DrDick says:

              Or employees?

            • Professor Know-It-All says:

              Do you believe corporate profits should be donated to Republican campaigns against the wishes of minority shareholders?

              Murc most certainly seems to think so.

              Just look at his comment above on how it’s OK for unions because the members can just quit their jobs and starve if they don’t like it.

              • Hogan says:

                Sigh.

                (2) For purposes of this section and section 79l (h) of title 15, [1] the term “contribution or expenditure” includes a contribution or expenditure, as those terms are defined in section 431 of this title, and also includes any direct or indirect payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money, or any services, or anything of value (except a loan of money by a national or State bank made in accordance with the applicable banking laws and regulations and in the ordinary course of business) to any candidate, campaign committee, or political party or organization, in connection with any election to any of the offices referred to in this section or for any applicable electioneering communication, . . .

                (3) It shall be unlawful
                (A) for such a fund to make a contribution or expenditure by utilizing money or anything of value secured by physical force, job discrimination, financial reprisals, or the threat of force, job discrimination, or financial reprisal; or by dues, fees, or other moneys required as a condition of membership in a labor organization or as a condition of employment, or by moneys obtained in any commercial transaction;

                Now why don’t you step over to the steam table and help yourself a big platter of nice tasty shut the fuck up?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Nah, he’ll just change nyms and assume nobody notices.

                • Hogan says:

                  Plus he’s busy getting his ass kicked on another thread now.

                • Professor Know-It-All says:

                  Paleezeeeee…..

                  Federal marijuana laws and immigration laws are also well spelled out, but aren’t followed.

                  Unions are infamous for dirty politics.

                  Make a better argument, dumbass.

                • Hogan says:

                  Federal marijuana laws and immigration laws are also well spelled out, but aren’t followed.

                  Yes, no one ever gets deported or goes to jail for possession of marijuana.

                  Unions are infamous for dirty politics.

                  Still waiting for examples. Well, “waiting” in the sense of “not expecting to get any ever.”

          • Joseph Slater says:

            Lumpus:

            Troll you may be, but in case anyone cares, the law is crystal clear — and has been for decades — that if a member of a union bargaining unit objects to his/her dues being used for politics, that employee doesn’t have to pay for politics. That’s true in both the public and private sector.

  10. Hogan says:

    conservatives cannot keep up with the funding of the vast union machine.

    Unions spent about $200 million on all elections in 2008. That’s the loose change under Karl Rove’s sofa cushions.

    union dues are forced campaign contributions

    Illegal since the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947.

    • mark f says:

      But I saw last week on Fox News that a new report shows unions secretly spent approximately $354,637,867,417,163,763,767,687,676,716,753,454,548,648,715 in recent elections!

      • Malaclypse says:

        See, for that to be believable, they would need to discuss how Obama is causing Zimbabwe-like hyperinflation, while “accidentally” using an image of Robert Mugabe instead of Obama.

    • bradp says:

      Unions spent about $200 million on all elections in 2008. That’s the loose change under Karl Rove’s sofa cushions.

      Can I get a source for that number?

      • mark f says:

        Everyone’s favorite source, Politifact, says:

        [I]n the data required to be reported, the [Center for Responsive Politics] found $75 million in direct contributions from unions and union members to candidates and parties, of which over $68 million went to Democrats. It also found $86 million in outside spending by labor in the 2008 cycle, which largely benefited Democrats. It also identified an additional $52.7 million in spending from labor groups in 527 organizations, tax exempt organizations that seek to influence elections. Add it up, and you get $206.7 million.

      • Professor Know-It-All says:

        Here’s a number for ya….

  11. Dr. Lumpus Spookytooth, phd. says:

    by the bias of the author’s post he is very likely a teacher or former teacher. Regarding my earlier point though about disclosure, the owner of Gold’s Gym was sending money to a candidate who did not support gay marriage, so when the media found out they savaged Gold’s Gym. I would also say that no matter how much money google and apple give obama, those individuals each have 1 vote. Same with any Romney donor, they have 1 vote.

    Try to think about these things yourself before compromised sources such as Scott Lemieux give your opinion to you.

  12. Dr. Lumpus Spookytooth, phd. says:

    @hogan

    Obama raised far more money than McCain in 2008.

    Regarding the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947…there is not 1 word, I repeat, not 1 word about campaign contributions.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-supreme-court-union-donations-20120621,0,2860404.story

    we see from this article here that Hogan is completely wrong about union campaign contributions.

    first line of the story

    ” The Supreme Court dealt a defeat Thursday to public employee unions in a case from California, ruling that unions must win approval in advance from dissenting members before they collect extra dues in mid-year to pay for a political campaign.”

    sorry to bury you Hogan.

    • Hogan says:

      Obama raised far more money than McCain in 2008.

      So?

      Regarding the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947…there is not 1 word, I repeat, not 1 word about campaign contributions.

      US Code, title 2, section 441(b). Look it up, doc.


      we see from this article here that Hogan is completely wrong about union campaign contributions.

      They’re not really dues if you don’t have to pay them. The question before the court was whether the union could collect the money up front and rebate it to members who objected, or had to acknowledge the objections up front.

    • Joseph Slater says:

      You really, really don’t understand the law here, troll. First, Taft-Hartley does, in fact, limit union direct campaign contributions in federal elections. Second, cases like Knox (in the public sector) and Beck (in the private sector) put different and additional limitations to union spending on politics — no employee can be charged dues for political activities if they object.

      Get a basic labor law hornbook, or at least Google, before you start spouting stuff that is simply and entirely wrong.

  13. Joe says:

    The ACLU brief is cited. If we are talking about contributions of over 10K, not let’s say requiring me to use my actual name here or on a pamphlet, I think their reasons are overblown.

    This in particular if we accept the CU baseline of what is going to be allowed. CU upheld disclosure limits. Do we want to go BEYOND CU here? And, if the problem is along the edges, like, e.g., the disclaimer is too large for a short ad, we can tinker.

    Honest legislating rests on compromise. Filibustering implies each and every person joining the effort (Republicans generally) is not even willing to let a vote be held even if the legislation is watered down to address concerns.

    The cites to minority groups tend to be dubious. The NAACP had to deal with violence and even murder when NAACP v. Alabama etc. was handed down. Anti-gay sorts often complain about things like boycotts or at most petty acts of vandalism, and in those cases, the people repeatedly are publicly promoting their views. And, such acts of vandalism etc. should be addressed by the authorities.

    And, yes, like Scalia said in Doe v. Reed, at some point, if you are going to spend over 10K to influence public debate, you can be asked to disclose and deal with some public opposition. Of course, disclosing is not required for under 10K or for any pamphlet or statement made.

  14. Manta1976 says:

    There is a very good reason to have money dominate political life, and it was espoused from Machiavelli.
    In short: a democratic regime will privilege the interests of the many over the interests of the powerful (the origin of power can vary from epoch to epoch: today, it is money).
    Thus, the powerful will not like this outcome, and try to subvert the democratic regime (see the history of South America).
    Hence, a stable regime should be heavy tilted in favor of the rich.

    The advantage of the present arrangement (over, say, a fascist regime) is that people do still get to vote, and hence the illusion of being important.

    Moreover, the fact that the money gets spend in political campaign (as opposed to plain bribery) means that (insofar as the propaganda is effective) many people gets persuaded that elected people care about them.

  15. Eli Rabett says:

    Eli has two suggestions.

    First, deny limited liability to any organization that makes political donations. You could do that on a state level.

    Second a constitutional amendment stating that money is not speech.

    • “Second a constitutional amendment stating that money is not speech.”

      So my state could decide to punish me because I refuse to buy from Whole Foods because of their anti-union stance? The idea that the spending of one’s money for political purposes does not constitute “speech” as it’s broadly defined is absurd on its face. That doesn’t mean that the state doesn’t have a compelling reason to think that limiting one’s ability to engage in speech to exert disproportionate influence over elections isn’t a sufficient trade off for curtailing those rights a bit, but simply declaring that “money is not speech” is silly, and actually codifying the principle that the spending (or non-spending) of money to make political points is not protected is self-evidently stupid.

      • Mr. Ziffel says:

        So my state could decide to punish me because I refuse to buy from Whole Foods because of their anti-union stance?

        Hmmm…wonder how your state would enforce such a law. Pre-crime unit, maybe?

    • NonyNony says:

      I’ve got a better one – any political ad purchased must grant FREE equal time to ALL other opposing sides on an issue/candidacy (not just a “both sides” but anyone who shows up disputing the original ad receives equal time for free).

      Unrealistic? Probably. But it would make political advertising much less profitable for networks and newspapers – possibly making it cost prohibitive to run any political ads at all. That would diminish at least some of the power of money in US political activities (and as an added bonus – it would make the news networks less invested in the “campaign as a horse race” narrative since they’d no longer be making money off those ponies).

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