Friday, October 29, 2010

Money Isn't Everything (A Defense Of "Citizens United")

Here's a firm counterexample to the idea that you can simply buy victory in an election:

There's Meg Whitman down by 10 in the Field poll (all the polls, really, but the Field is to CA what Selzer is to IA.)


There's Linda McMahon, 42 million spent, and who hasn't convinced men and (especially) women that dead wrestlers and steroid abuse are the experience we need to move America forward.


Nate Silver gives her a 0.1% chance of winning. Way to show folks how to manage money, Linda. Why not just give each CT voter $25?

And then there's Rick Scott, down three in the Mason-Dixon poll and behind on the 538 forecast as of this writing (that one is still too close to call.) That poll position cost Scott and his wealthy wife $60 million.

This is a big reason why Citizens United doesn't get my knickers in a twist; it's simply not the case that pouring unlimited amounts of money into a race guarentees success. Hell... looking at how Meg Whitman is performing its not even the case that it gets you a close race. Which, thankfully, is as it should be; the alternative rests on the assumption that people vote for whomever buys the most airtime rather than engaging in a reflective assessment of the candidates' positions.

I often wonder if the people who are getting upset at the outcome of Citizens United have read the transcript of oral arguments? I found the government's position in the case to be absolutely odious:

Robust debate about candidates for elective office First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. Yet that is precisely the dialogue that the government has prohibited if practiced by unions or corporations, any union or any corporation.

The government claims it may do so based upon the Austin decision that corporate speech is by its nature corrosive and distorting because it might not reflected actual public support for the views expressed by the corporation. The government admits that that radical concept of requiring public support for the speech before you can speak would even authorize it to criminalize books and signs.1

That's bloody-fucking-awful... the idea that you can criminalize a book or a poster merely because it's put out by a corporation. Granting the Federal Government the power of prior restraint is far worse, IMHO, than allowing people to (fruitlessly) spend buckets of money supporting a candidate or cause.

1 P. 3, lines 11-24.


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