Campaign Finance Reform and the Supreme Court
January 22, 2010 38 Comments
RALEIGH— Yesterday the Supreme Court voted to overturn existing laws and precedent barring businesses, corporations and unions from campaign contributions.
Listening to NPR on the way home yesterday I was able to hear two points of view on the matter. One from a concerned citizens “watch-dog” group headed by a man I’d never heard of and the other from concerned citizens “watch-dog” group headed by Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich’s first reaction was to praise the court’s decision for finally standing up for the constitution. The other group’s reaction was to blast the court for allowing millions and perhaps billions of corporate dollars flow into politics. Mr. Gingrich argued that before incumbent politicians held a monopoly, so to speak, on campaign finance making it incredibly hard for a “middle class” figure to run for office and finance his campaign. The other group continued bashing the decision and claimed the results would be large donations would be poured into the coffers of incumbents thus negating any gains by the “middle class” candidates. Essentially he was arguing that politicians are now up for sale to the highest bidder.
Campaign finance reform is a tough topic to tackle. The goal I believe on all sides is to “level the playing field.” But it seems to be a fine line to walk between leveling that field and violating constitutional rights to free speech, peaceably assemble and petition the government.
To bar lobbying and campaign contributions is to restrict these rights in some fashion. And while this freedom can and is often abused it should not be removed completely. Prohibiting people from assembling a group and hiring a full time representative to petition the government would be a violation of the constitution, hence banning lobbying outright is not possible. Likewise with campaign finance. One thing is for certain, even with the laws in place corruption still persisted.
What are your thoughts on a beneficial way to move forward? Was the supreme court correct in its decision? Apart from any want to restrain corruption in politics, is the supreme courts constitutional argument correct?