Inviso-Bricks Unlimited

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In Citizens United, the Supreme Court decided in effect that corporations didn’t have to be newspapers or networks in order to have First Amendments protections. This outraged the Left, which adores free speech if it involves stripping nekkid in a Manhattan theater, covering yourself with chocolate syrup and sprinkles, the better to facilitate one’s very own waiting for Godot’s lesbian aunt, but which loathes free speech if it involves any challenges whatever to the wisdom, power, authority, and reach of incumbent politicians.

Their hatred of free political speech is thinly disguised as a zeal for “campaign finance reform,” as though their enemy were big money. In short, they have reversed the priorities of the Founders. The Founders centrally and very deliberately wanted to protect political free speech. They were happy for that coverage to extend to an avant-garde poem recited at a coffeehouse filled to the brim with hep cats, and I share in that happiness. Knock yourself out. Nobody is against that, but that is not what it was ever about.

What the Founders were protecting was the kind of bare knuckle speech that occurs in the course of campaigns and in other forms of public assessment of public servants. Here is an old timey observation made on Ben Franklin: “A crafty and lecherous old hypocrite whose very statue seems to gloat on the wenches as they walk the States House yard.” Or Harper’s Weekly on Abe Lincoln: “Filthy Story-Teller, Despot, Liar, Thief, Braggart, Buffoon, Usurper, Monster, Ignoramus Abe, Old Scoundrel, Perjurer, Robber, Swindler, Tyrant, Field-Butcher, Land-Pirate.” That’s what the first item in the Bill of Rights was intended to protect. And if the Koch brothers, or George Soros for that matter, want to drop a couple mill on rising to Franklin’s defense or to Lincoln’s, or if they want to spend the same amount for piling on, the First Amendment was crafted in order to prevent any functionary in the IRS or elected official in the government from preventing it.

Liberating speech while restricting the flow of money that pays for access to the microphone is a contradiction. It does not tell the children of Israel to make bricks without straw; it tells them to make bricks without straw or clay. But the severity of the restriction, as the Left might argue for it, is actually liberating the free flow of brick making. Without clay and without straw, everyone is set equally free to make all the inviso-bricks that they might desire, to their heart’s content, and all in the privacy of their own homes.

This is like saying that hospital patients have the right to say whatever they like to hospital personnel, but to stand on their oxygen hoses to make sure their feedback doesn’t ever get out of hand. We must guard against abuses.

And now the bad guys in their brazenness are actually introducing an amendment to the Constitution that would allow Congress to set limits on how much money could be spent trying to replace members of Congress. Raise your hands, class, if you see the potential conflicts of interest there that cannot fail to ensue . . .

A helpful tip: if your representatives in Congress are doing anything other than spitting and cussing in response to this measure, then you need a new representative in Congress. But I hear there is an election coming up.

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Nick E
Nick E
8 years ago

As someone who supports some campaign finance reform, I have three issues with your article. First of all, I am not irked so much by how much money is spent but by the strange secrecy allowed to people who spend it. If money is a form of speech, then surely anonymity is a right you give up when you spend it politically. The KKK has every right to throw a parade, write articles, and donate, but surely they don’t have the right to donate secretly. Political donations that go through ordinary channels require public financial disclosures. People donating large amounts… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
8 years ago

What Nick E said. Of course corporations are people, and the people who corporations actually are have the opportunity, much like the government does, to spend large amounts of other peoples money as the-people-who-are-actually-the-corporation (and not those other people) please. And now it seems without much risk of accountability to the-people-who-are-actually-the-corporation.

Steve
Steve
8 years ago

This seems to me like one of those issues that nobody would care about if FOX News or MSNBC hadn’t told them it was important. Since most people just fill in the box by the name with the “D” or the “R” depending on their personal preference, I don’t think it matters that much. If the republican candidate gets 50 million in donations and the democrat gets 50 thousand, and you’re a liberal, is your vote going to change? Probably not.

jeers1215
jeers1215
8 years ago

Well I think the central issue is, given the world we live in, whether or not passing laws about political contributions would actually serve their intended purpose.

Laws almost invariably favor the connected. If anything, it seems most likely that creating new restrictions will only hinder challengers while leaving insiders free and clear to exploit loopholes or make back-room deals.

People find ways around things. And no one does it better than the rich and powerful.

Jon Swerens
8 years ago

“Well I think the central issue is, given the world we live in, whether or not passing laws about political contributions would actually serve their intended purpose.”

Their intended purpose being to give more political power to meum and less to tuum.