Myanmar's campaign finance reform

Agitators said that money has corrupted ‘the political process’. Thus our wise incumbents realized that to save democracy they had to place limits on citizens spending money on speech to defeat them. I’m sure that Myanmar agrees with John McCain that it’s in the interest of the state to keep political opposition at a minimum.

...among things forbidden by Myanmar's Web regulations, introduced in January 2000, are the posting of "any writings directly or indirectly detrimental to the current policies" of the government. The rules also forbid "any writings detrimental to the interests of the Union of Myanmar." news.com

The OpenNet Initiative found that Myanmar blocked 84% of internet sites likely to have politically 'sensitive' material, "including nearly all political opposition and pro-democracy pages tested. These findings align with Burma’s well-documented efforts to monitor e-mail communication by its citizens and to control political dissent and opposition movements."

Some might call this a violation of free speech. But since the passage of McCain-Feingold I think of it more as campaign finance reform.

Like Myanmar, our congress passed, our President signed, and our Supreme Court upheld a law called McCain-Feingold (despite something called the First Amendment), that classifies and restricts a new form of speech called: "Electioneering Communication." Apparently this is how the law doesn't violate the first amendment: it's not free speech, it's 'Electioneering Communication'.

And you wondered what the big deal was about the UN taking over governance of the internet. After all, Myanmar has a right to have a voice in how the internet is run, do they not? Along with China, and Iran.

China: "We feel that the public policy issue of Internet should be solved jointly by the sovereign states in the U.N. framework...For instance, spam, network security and cyberspace--we should look for an appropriate specialized agency of the United Nations as a competent body." news.com

China's campaign finance laws are so much more advanced than ours. Their elections are completely publically financed with no taint of private or filthy corporate cash corrupting their political process. Oh, wait they don't really have national elections do they? Has McCain heard about this yet? Whatever you do don't tell him about that or China's newest campaign finance reform which will regulate Electioneering Communication on the internet.

"The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against national security and public interest," the official Xinhua news agency said in announcing the new rules, which took effect immediately.

The news agency did not detail the rules, but said Internet news sites must "be directed toward serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests."

Established news media needed permission to run a news Web site, it said. New operators had to register themselves with government information offices. news.com

Thank god that could never happen here. This is America, not a third world dictatorship.

If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?
We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet.

Again, blogging could also get us into issues about online journals and non-online journals. Why should CNET get an exemption but not an informal blog? Why should Salon or Slate get an exemption? Should Nytimes.com and Opinionjournal.com get an exemption but not online sites, just because the newspapers have a print edition as well?

Why wouldn't the news exemption cover bloggers and online media?
Because the statute refers to periodicals or broadcast, and it's not clear the Internet is either of those. Second, because there's no standard for being a blogger, anyone can claim to be one, and we're back to the deregulated Internet that the judge objected to. Also I think some of my colleagues on the commission would be uncomfortable with that kind of blanket exemption.

So if you're using text that the campaign sends you, and you're reproducing it on your blog or forwarding it to a mailing list, you could be in trouble?
Yes. In fact, the regulations are very specific that reproducing a campaign's material is a reproduction for purpose of triggering the law. That'll count as an expenditure that counts against campaign finance law. news.com

Posted by Eric Simonson at October 20, 2005 12:17 AM
Comments
Comment #86743

Indeed. Republicans must have the right to hire shills like Armstrong or prostitutes like Ganon. Better yet, the Right should spend taxpayer money to create News Segments and pass it off as real objective media.

Great Job!!!

btw. You forgot to mention the Oil-For-Food Scandal during your UN Bashing. Gotta have that else I would not be able to mention the $8 Billion the US stole from Iraq.

Posted by: Aldous at October 20, 2005 1:48 AM
Comment #86756

Damn, Aldous, how are you always the first to counter Eric’s posts? I think Karen Hughes needs you to head up her rapid counter-propaganda task force.

Eric, how does Myanmar’s banning of political web sites have anything to do with the FEC’s classifying of political web sites — other than they both involve the Internet?

Posted by: American Pundit at October 20, 2005 5:43 AM
Comment #86763

Eric,

Yeah, and dispite the First Ammendment, those with more money to contribute have always had an unequal amount of free speech.
Pac’s, and 527’s, should be banned. These are not means of free speech, this is yelling.
The little guy has no voice at all in America because the stacks of money block out the sound.

Posted by: Rocky at October 20, 2005 7:24 AM
Comment #86775

Well, so much for free speach.
I’m not an internet wiz kid so I might sound a little dumb here, but I don’t see how the internet can be controlled. Maybe someone with a little more smarts than me on the subject can explain it. In Internet for Dummies terms.
Crap like this is why we need to start with the next election and vote ALL incumbants out of office.
BUT DO NOT REPLACE THEM WITH A DEM OR REP.
Vote independant or third party. And if they want to act like the idiots they replaced, then replace them.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 20, 2005 9:56 AM
Comment #86805

Aldous,

You’re right, I did forget to mention oil-for-food, thanks for reminding me. Did you know that Kofi Annan’s ‘Karl Rove’ has been arrested in France for his role in the blood-for-money scandal?

Jean-Bernard Merimee arrested in France.

…personal representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and carried the rank of “undersecretary-general.” He was on the U.N. Security Council back when the Oil-for-Food program was on the drawing board in the 1990s.

How is it that this doesn’t elicit any shame on the part of the left? No big deal I guess.

You have to expand your reading to more than just ultra left sources, aldous.


Posted by: esimonson at October 20, 2005 1:21 PM
Comment #86806

AP,


Eric, how does Myanmar’s banning of political web sites have anything to do with the FEC’s classifying of political web sites — other than they both involve the Internet?

What does Myanmar’s restriction of political speech have anything to do with McCain-Feingold’s restriction of political speech you mean?

I believe it’s a first amendment issue. Something that the left is strangely silent about when it comes to this issue.

I don’t think that the founding father’s were worried about the right of a federally funded artist being able to put a cross in a jar of urine when they wrote the first amendment. I think that the kind of free speech that they were primarily worried about was political speech. McCain Feingold seeks to restrict political speech. I would think that would be obvious.

Is there really such a blindness on the left about this issue?

Posted by: esimonson at October 20, 2005 1:33 PM
Comment #86818

Eric

I understand and agree with the position that the ability to hand out money is in some sense speech. But I do feel that even more than the limits routinely put on ordinary speech (“fire” in a crowded theater and all that), limits should be placed on “monetary” speech, especially when it influences how the government operates. Listen, you wouldn’t say that Bill Gates has more right to free speech than the lowest paid worker in his organization would you? But equating money and speech implies exactly that.

It’s not a simple problem, because unfettered giving by hugely wealthy parties can (has been known to) obviously corrupt government. On the other hand, financing of elections cannot be free for all comers, because it would break the public bank. I think earnest reformers like McCain and Feingold, who you villify, are truly trying to work on a compromise. Keeping the corruption at bay may be a never-ending exercise as those that would game the system figure out new ways to get around constraints.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at October 20, 2005 2:34 PM
Comment #86821

Our sitting president said it best: “There ought to be limits to freedom.” So much for this being a left wing issue.

Posted by: ElliottBay at October 20, 2005 2:38 PM
Comment #86825

If you’re going to post something comparing American election law with those of another country, I think the appropriate thing to do is compare the U.S. to other democratic countries like Canada, France, the U.K., Sweden and Japan. Not a military dictatorship like Myanmar.

Posted by: steve at October 20, 2005 3:14 PM
Comment #86826

Eric-
Although free speech is guaranteed by the constitution, there are restrictions as to time, place, and manner that are accepted as part of the law. You can’t yell fire in a theatre. You can’t speak your mind through a megaphone at two in the morning through with the volume turned to its highest. You aren’t allowed to inspire rioters to to go and overthrow city hall. You aren’t allowed to allege your next door neighbor is an arsonist and distribute that as news. You can’t legally use his image for profit, nor steel his manuscript and sell it as your own.

Why not regulate campaign finance? As long as an individual can send a check in support of their favorite candidate, free speech is possible through campaign finance. The controls on the volumes of money that one organization can contribute is no different than not letting some jerk get up on stage in a meeting and use a megaphone to drown out any opposing views. Like espionage laws (which regulate communication of state secrets), and privacy laws (which regulate communication of your secrets), the intention of the laws is to preserve a forum that the excesses of a certain kind of speech might destroy. Of course, the debate necessarily rages on as to where the draw the line, but these are interests that have to be weighed against one another.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 20, 2005 3:29 PM
Comment #86828

Eric Simonson
Why do you feel “the left” is responsible for the Oil-for-Food scandal? I thought that was a UN program. Why should “the left” elicit any shame for the actions of Jean-Bernard Merimee? Is he one of those left leaning Democrats? Is he even an American? Then why do you seem to feel “the left” is responsible for him or his actions? Just who is “the left” to whom you keep referring?

And, your invocation of the first amendment leaves your readers with the impression that you feel it was written just for you. Free speech equals anything with which you agree and excludes anything you with which you disagree. For your information not everyone on “the left” approves of Mapplethorpe’s interpretations of art, but we are not so bold as to suggest he should be silenced any more than his death has already accomplished just that.

Tone down the rhetoric and frame you criticism of “the left” in reasonable terms. At least limit your criticism of “the left” to those things for which they are responsible and realize that they are not responsible for everything you don’t like or agree with.

Posted by: RMD at October 20, 2005 3:36 PM
Comment #86853

AP-

It’s obvious that Aldous and Eric are one and the same!

Posted by: George in SC at October 20, 2005 4:03 PM
Comment #86908

Eric,

Where in the First Amendment does it say money equals speech? I must have missed it.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 20, 2005 5:27 PM
Comment #86911

Ron Brown,

“Crap like this is why we need to start with the next election and vote ALL incumbants out of office.”

Check this out.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 20, 2005 5:31 PM
Comment #86925

Stephanie
Thanks for the link. Right now I cann’t get the site to come up but will try later.
Might be getting censored or something.
I do have the address to a web site that d.a.n. gave me the other day.
I cann’t figure out how to link it so I’ll give to you here and you an check it out if you want.
www.void.poliwatch.org/

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 20, 2005 6:17 PM
Comment #86931

Eric:

So you are worried about the First Amendment? You want everybody to have free speech? You want both millionaires and the working poor to contribute money to campaigns, thereby expressing their free speech?

Money is not speech. Yes, it takes money to spread the word. But if money were free speech it would mean that a guy contributing $1 million to a campaign has a million times more free speech than the guy who contributes a dollar.

The non-rich guy must have the same opportunity for free speech as the rich guy. One way to accomplish this is to have the government pay for all campaigns. Since the government represents all of us, all of us will have the same amount of free speech. Then we will be following the First Amendment.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at October 20, 2005 6:24 PM
Comment #86946

Stephanie

“Where in the First Amendment does it say money equals speech? I must have missed it.”

Good one!

Posted by: Mental Wimp at October 20, 2005 8:32 PM
Comment #86969

RMD,

“Tone down the rhetoric and frame you criticism of “the left” in reasonable terms. At least limit your criticism of “the left” to those things for which they are responsible and realize that they are not responsible for everything you don’t like or agree with.”

Yeah, but he hasn’t used fascism in any of his posts recently.

eric,

I wonder, just like many of the previous posters, what does a totalitarian regime’s crackdown on internet access, have to do with the First Amendment?
Political speech? Oh, please.
Since the Supreme Court’s sanctioning of political contributions as protected by the First Amendment, only those with the deepest pockets have been invited to even whisper.

As I said before, the average American’s voice can’t be heard when all those corporate sacks of money soak up all the sound.


Posted by: Rocky at October 21, 2005 12:10 AM
Comment #86981
Eric, how does Myanmar’s banning of political web sites have anything to do with the FEC’s classifying of political web sites — other than they both involve the Internet?

What does Myanmar’s restriction of political speech have anything to do with McCain-Feingold’s restriction of political speech you mean?

No, I meant what I said. Myanmar is banning access to political web sites, and the FEC is not. Where’s the connection?

It’s obvious that Aldous and Eric are one and the same!

Yikes! That never even occurred to me. :)

Posted by: American Pundit at October 21, 2005 8:01 AM
Comment #86988

Paul Seigel wrote:

Money is not speech. Yes, it takes money to spread the word. But if money were free speech it would mean that a guy contributing $1 million to a campaign has a million times more free speech than the guy who contributes a dollar.

The non-rich guy must have the same opportunity for free speech as the rich guy. One way to accomplish this is to have the government pay for all campaigns. Since the government represents all of us, all of us will have the same amount of free speech. Then we will be following the First Amendment.

There are two fundamentally flawed premises in this little argument. First is the premise that the rich guy and the non-rich guy are entitled to equality of speech, not just freedom of speech. However, our Constitution, laws, and traditions make no such guarantee. When it somes to the most important act of speec, the vote, rich and non-rich guy have the same power, that of one vote.

The idea presented in the second paragraph contravenes the very purpose of the First Amendment, that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. If the campaigns are about the exchange of political viewpoints, the very political speech we are discussing here, then having the government pay for campaigns will necessitate regulations about those campaigns, i.e., a law abridging the freedom of speech.

While on paper it looks like government funded campaigns are a good idea, the reality is that those in power like to keep it and will write laws designed to keep them in power. Need a good example, read the McCain-Feingold bill closely—there are large incumbent protection measures in it.

The goverment spends my, and your, tax money on a number of important and lots of unimportant purposes, but the one thing it should not be used for is the support of politics.

Posted by: Matt Johnston at October 21, 2005 9:20 AM
Comment #87098

mental wimp,

Keeping the corruption at bay may be a never-ending exercise as those that would game the system figure out new ways to get around constraints.

It is only never ending if it is based on false assuptions and actually targets the wrong thing.

With the assumption that political speech can be regulated, you are essentially criminalizing political activity. What if I said that you have a right to live anywhere you want in any home of your choosing, but we are going to limit how much you can spend on a house, where you can spend it, and then make you register and report every transaction dealing with that home.

Stephen,

Although free speech is guaranteed by the constitution, there are restrictions as to time, place, and manner that are accepted as part of the law. You can’t yell fire in a theatre.

…the intention of the laws is to preserve a forum that the excesses of a certain kind of speech might destroy. Of course, the debate necessarily rages on as to where the draw the line, but these are interests that have to be weighed against one another.

You are arguing that excercising political speech is akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater? And that it’s perfectly acceptable for congress to regulate political speech and that it’s only a matter of degree that’s at issue?!

It doesn’t amaze me that the left has no problem clamping down on speech they see as bad.

Posted by: esimonson at October 21, 2005 6:13 PM
Comment #87103

Eric

Yes, I guess in some sense I want to criminalize political activity, but I’m not sure how this relates to home financing.

We outlaw bribery of public officials, including elected officials, because that sort of speech is corrupting to the ideals of democracy. When there is evidence that campaign financing is accomplishing the same ends, society should step in to regulate that activity. Believing that somehow unregulated financing will all work out in the end is somewhat naively optimistic, given the evidence to date.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at October 21, 2005 6:24 PM
Comment #87121

Ron,

It’s the same site. I just left out the backslash.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 21, 2005 6:38 PM
Comment #87135

Paul,

So you are worried about the First Amendment? You want everybody to have free speech? You want both millionaires and the working poor to contribute money to campaigns, thereby expressing their free speech?

No doubt we need a welfare program for this so that the poor can excercise the same level of free speech the rich can, right?

Money is not speech. Yes, it takes money to spread the word. But if money were free speech it would mean that a guy contributing $1 million to a campaign has a million times more free speech than the guy who contributes a dollar.

Sorry, Paul. Money is speech when speech is paid for. Is printing speech? Is a web site speech? Is television speech? Radio? Shortwave? Etc. In your definition the only speech that is free is your own voice. Probably only in your own home at that. If you divorce the method of speaking from free speech you have no right whatsoever to air your opinion in any technological way. If your website is not covered as free speech then what is?

This is the issue. McCain-Feingold is bad law because it does not even define the harm it seeks to protect us from beyond vague threats about ‘corruption of the political process’. McCain-Feingold presumes that politicians are helpless victims of money. Where is the corruption?

The hypocrisy of this is blaring. If free speech is so important why would you need to limit the ‘wrong kind’ of political speech? DO you know where that will take you? What road is that going down to? In deference to Ron it is the road to fascism. Which, I submit, the left cannot see because fascism is actually what they believe in.

You and I have the same rights of travel do we not? Just because I can’t afford to travel on the concord doesn’t mean that others should not be able to. When your belief system is based on greed and envy what you get is solutions like this out of spite.

Having money does not mean that you automatically convince others of your cause. I’m sure that you would see through the lies of millionaires trying to buy an election. Why can’t others?

The non-rich guy must have the same opportunity for free speech as the rich guy. One way to accomplish this is to have the government pay for all campaigns. Since the government represents all of us, all of us will have the same amount of free speech. Then we will be following the First Amendment.

Sure, just like Myanmar. I’m sure all the candidates in Myanmar are funded from the treasury as well.

Posted by: esimonson at October 21, 2005 6:42 PM
Comment #87168

mental winp,

Yes, I guess in some sense I want to criminalize political activity, but I’m not sure how this relates to home financing.

We outlaw bribery of public officials, including elected officials, because that sort of speech is corrupting to the ideals of democracy. When there is evidence that campaign financing is accomplishing the same ends, society should step in to regulate that activity. Believing that somehow unregulated financing will all work out in the end is somewhat naively optimistic, given the evidence to date.

What the hell is free speech for then?! If not for political speech! I submit to you that the primary reason free speech and freedom of the press is so important is for political reasons. Even the KKK gets to voice their ‘harmful’ opinions, but god forbid someone run an ad 60 days before an election against an incumbant without filing the right papers.

Bribery is not an issue here. If it were then where is it? Who has been bribed? We are now talking about regulating speech that ‘helps’ a candidate.

Do you think that if I reproduce a candidate’s campaign materials on my website that I should have to file with the FEC to register that as a campaign contribution? Or how about the use of my computer?

What, exactly, is the danger of people spending money to express their political opinion? Tell me. How dangerous is that? This is Myanmar campaign finance reform: “Political opinion is dangerous, we must control it.”

Do you think that George Soros should have been able to have tried to sway the election in 2004 by using millions, yes millions of dollars to defeat George Bush?

Posted by: esimonson at October 21, 2005 6:56 PM
Comment #87179

Stephanie
Kinda thought it was.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 21, 2005 8:10 PM
Comment #87186

esimonson,

Political speech should not be controlled by the government. But speech is something that belongs, or should belong, to individuals, not organizations. IMO, the KKK doesn’t have the right to speak, but the members of the KKK do. Politicians can say what they wish, but when they expect other people to fund their ability to speak, that’s when I have a problem with it. When organizations pool massive amounts of money to fund political speech, they aren’t representing the political speech of the individuals, because the individuals do not choose what words are spoken or what ideas are expressed.

Think of it this way, how many of the Religious Right that contributed to Bush’s campaign really agreed with his slamming Kerry for his military service? Most likely it wasn’t very many. Yet, their money, and thus their free speech in your mind, was used in a manner that they didn’t agree with. And, as much as the Religious Right donated to Bush’s campaign, his corporate buddies still donated more, so corporate priorities are more important to Bush then social priorities, because he’s more indebted to the corporations. That’s the inherent “bribe” and corruption in political monies.

“What, exactly, is the danger of people spending money to express their political opinion?”

People spending their own money to express their own political opinions is not inherently dangerous. It’s when organizations collect people’s money to express the organizations’ political opinions that is the problem, and that’s what we see all too frequently today.

“Do you think that if I reproduce a candidate’s campaign materials on my website that I should have to file with the FEC to register that as a campaign contribution? Or how about the use of my computer?”

No, but you should get it approved by the campaign first. And, if you were really trying to “speak” for yourself, you would actually design your own material advocating the candidate you’re interested in and why you’re interested in them.

We can retain the rights of political speech, without funneling massive amounts of money into political organizations that then do the “speaking” for us, without our direct imput.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 21, 2005 8:39 PM
Comment #87218

Wait a minute Stephanie.

So you only have an individual right to free speech? Now you are bumbing into another fundamental right which is freedom of assembly. The freedom to associate with anyone you choose.

Political speech should not be controlled by the government. But speech is something that belongs, or should belong, to individuals, not organizations.

Is it your contention that if I decide to join a group—in order to speak with one voice—that it’s wrong? My group cannot speak, but I can— but only by myself? This is a ridiculous assertion. I think that you are starting from a conclusion and working backwards.

Politicians can say what they wish, but when they expect other people to fund their ability to speak, that’s when I have a problem with it.

As long as the contribution is voluntary what basis do you have to oppose their choice?

Let me also point out that the main ‘solution’ to this problem of money being donated (gasp) willy nilly, is public funding of elections- “to give democracy back to the people.” Do you see how backwards that is? Then the politicians really will be expecting people to fund their ability to speak- what’s more you won’t have any say in the matter. Your taxes, your involuntary contributions will then be going to fund their speech. And it will be millions, Stephanie. The money will still be there to corrupt them. More so because they will not be accountable to anyone but themselves.

When organizations pool massive amounts of money to fund political speech, they aren’t representing the political speech of the individuals, because the individuals do not choose what words are spoken or what ideas are expressed.

Except they do. Do you think I donate to any Democrats? Do you think I give to MoveOn.org? I wonder why that is? I thought the whole idea was that the money given to them corrupted them and made them take positions against their own consciense or something. Now you’re saying they take the money and say whatever they want. Which is it?

Think of it this way, how many of the Religious Right that contributed to Bush’s campaign really agreed with his slamming Kerry for his military service? Most likely it wasn’t very many. Yet, their money, and thus their free speech in your mind, was used in a manner that they didn’t agree with. And, as much as the Religious Right donated to Bush’s campaign, his corporate buddies still donated more, so corporate priorities are more important to Bush then social priorities, because he’s more indebted to the corporations. That’s the inherent “bribe” and corruption in political monies.

Which is it? Do they say what they want, or are they indebted by our bribes? Are they contradicting our free speech or are they our slaves?

Why wouldn’t it be corrupting if they received all federal funds? Keeping in mind that third parties that do not receive enough votes, or are not mainstream enough, are systematically kept of of ballots and would certainly not receive federal funds like incumbants obviously would.

People spending their own money to express their own political opinions is not inherently dangerous. It’s when organizations collect people’s money to express the organizations’ political opinions that is the problem, and that’s what we see all too frequently today.

McCain-Feingold did not keep George Soros from spending millions on this last election. ($27 million?) Not only that but they lied about the draft, they pulled out all the stops.

No, but you should get it approved by the campaign first. And, if you were really trying to “speak” for yourself, you would actually design your own material advocating the candidate you’re interested in and why you’re interested in them.

Not the point. The point is that the FEC has no business messing with my free speech, which is what they will be doing. What if I want to post George Bush’s list of accomplishments on my website? Why is that the business of the federal government? Why is my support the federal governments business at all?

If we were talking about sex the left would be calling this fascism. As it is, it’s just political speech.

We can retain the rights of political speech, without funneling massive amounts of money into political organizations that then do the “speaking” for us, without our direct imput.

That is your opinion. I would like to keep the option of banding together with other likeminded individuals so that we could take out an ad in the New York Times or air a television commercial or two. I can’t do that by myself. Such groups are the solution to millionaires having ‘more speech’ opportunities via their wealth.

You are talking about limiting free speech in a way that will have far reaching consequences. Far beyond the patriot act in fact. Or anything like it.

Once political speech is no longer off limits… good luck. What we will have will not be the democratic utopia you think it will be.

Posted by: esimonson at October 22, 2005 12:02 AM
Comment #87267

esimonson,

Okay, freedom of assembly, lets look at that.

Article I:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (emphasis added)

Nowhere does it say “Congress shall make no law prohibiting people pooling their money together for the purpose of political gain.” I don’t see anything in the first amendment that even remotely says that. How do you get political parties and campaign contributions from “the freedom of speech” and “peacably to assemble?” It doesn’t make sense, Eric. It’s not there.

So, unless you’re suggesting our forefathers intended, or the Constitution means, that what we’re allowed to peacably assemble is money, then it doesn’t fit with political parties either. So, my conclusion from your argument, is not that we can’t have political parties or contributions, but that neither are guaranteed rights by the Constitution.

“Is it your contention that if I decide to join a group-in order to speak with one voice-that it’s wrong?”

No, my contention is that speaking as such a group is different then political contributions or ad campaigns. As far as I’m concerned, you can peacably assemble and speak to each other as much as you want, but as soon as you decided to funnel uncontrolled amounts of money into ad campaigns to “speak” as a group, you are beyond the bounds and the protections guaranteed in the Constitution and we the people have the right to elect people who are going to control the amount of money you can raise to do this.

“I think that you are starting from a conclusion and working backwards.”

The same goes for you, Eric. You started with the conclusion that money equals free speech, so that everything else in the Constitution can be used to back up your “right” to fund your speech however you choose.

“As long as the contribution is voluntary what basis do you have to oppose their choice?”

Because I am concerned about the corruption in our government. If politicians are being bought, then that is something I have every right to oppose.

“Let me also point out that the main ‘solution’ to this problem of money being donated (gasp) willy nilly, is public funding of elections…”

Did I pose that solution? Look back. You won’t see it. I really don’t care whether politicians get their ad bloc funds. No, I take that back. I do care. I just care that they don’t get it! I don’t equate free speech with ad campaigns. That’s not political speech, that’s advertising for political gain. There’s a slight, but significant difference. Give the politicians all the debate time they can stand. Fill the public radio and television stations with it. Run it 24/7 for all I care. Just give all the politicians equal time. They can have all the free speech they want, they just can’t compete for the best ad slot. Tax payers already pay for public broadcasting, so we won’t really notice…except in the programing we don’t get to see because it’s election time.

“Except they do. Do you think I donate to any Democrats? Do you think I give to MoveOn.org? I wonder why that is? I thought the whole idea was that the money given to them corrupted them and made them take positions against their own consciense or something. Now you’re saying they take the money and say whatever they want. Which is it?”

It’s both. They are not mutually exclusive ideas. I’m going to assume, solely for the sake of discussion, that you donated funds to GWB’s election campaign. If you didn’t, pick another name for somebody you did. After you donated your money, were you then consulted by the campaign managers on how the campaign should be run? How about the guy from the big corporation? You know, one of GWB’s buddies. Do you think he was consulted? He probably was and it probably went something like this, “You know, George, those environmental laws are really dampening my profits. You know, if you can get your guys to look the other way for awhile, I’m sure I can scrouge up some extra money to donate to your campaign.” Bush gets his guys to look the other way. Corporate bonzo makes a bunch of extra money and donates a portion of the profit to GWB’s campaign. Then, when Bush gets nailed for his environmental record, instead of saying, “Well yeah, I did it to help a major campaign contributor,” he lies through his teeth and tries to gloss it all over. Whereas you get stuck hoping Bush does what you want him to do, based on his platform which he really has no obligation to follow once he’s elected. Or do you honestly believe that Bush has kept all his campaign promises?

“Why wouldn’t it be corrupting if they received all federal funds?”

I’m not suggesting they receive all federal funds. I don’t see any reason for it. I don’t think it’s at all necessary to have significant cash flow to retain freedom of speech, the right to peacably assemble, or to maintain our political process. This belief that campaign ads are somehow integral to our society is what messes up this whole issue. Why do we need expensive campaign ads in the first place?

“Not the point. The point is that the FEC has no business messing with my free speech, which is what they will be doing. What if I want to post George Bush’s list of accomplishments on my website?”

I don’t have any problem with you posting GWB’s list of accomplishments. What does this have to do with campaign financing or McCain-Feingold?

“If we were talking about sex the left would be calling this fascism. As it is, it’s just political speech.”

I’m not any part of the left, Eric. Not even close. If I had my way, sex material would be more closely regulated too. IMO, it should be eliminated, but through social action not legal action.

“That is your opinion. I would like to keep the option of banding together with other likeminded individuals so that we could take out an ad in the New York Times or air a television commercial or two.”

And what’s stopping you? Setting limits doesn’t mean eliminating. I suggest setting limits, and much more stringent limits then we currently have, but not eliminating such “banding together.” Nor do I see how the Constitution disallows setting limits in this fashion. Without making your own conclusions about what you’re assembling and what counts as speech, both involving money in your case, the Constitution offers you no guarantees and does not deny Congress the ability to set limits.

“Such groups are the solution to millionaires having ‘more speech’ opportunities via their wealth.”

Not if the millionaires buy their way in, which is the typical example of today’s “free” political speech. It’s not free, it’s bought and paid for.

“You are talking about limiting free speech in a way that will have far reaching consequences. Far beyond the patriot act in fact. Or anything like it.”

No, what I’m talking about is limiting what you can buy with your money, specifically our government “representatives.”

“What we will have will not be the democratic utopia you think it will be.”

I’m not looking for any kind of utopia. Human beings are not capable of it and I’m not so naive that I believe otherwise. What I’m looking for is getting some of the corruption out of our government, by reducing the campaign contribution debt that buying our politicians now.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 22, 2005 2:13 AM
Comment #87314

eric,

Let’s say that you donate $50 dollars to the candidate of your choice.
Would it be unreasonable to think that you would expect something in return for your donation?

Let’s say I donate $1 million dollars to the RNC.

Would it be fair to say that I might expect more for my dollars than you expect for yours?

Posted by: Rocky at October 22, 2005 3:07 PM
Comment #87332

Rocky,

If you have an extra million lying around, I can think of a better place for you to donate it.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 22, 2005 9:14 PM
Comment #87454

Eric,

Wow! The left has been strangely quiet about the first amendment? Give me a break. I believe it is the Left that routinely defends crackers like you on a daily basis. Anne Coulter recently gave a speech in Florida calling for the elimination of the first amendment. The Left will never get rid of the first amendment, and only a schizophrenic right wing lunatic would try to figure out some outrageous way how the Left would do so.
Honestly, I keep on asking myself why does the Left even tolerate people like you when billions of people across the world despise the Republicans. Your lucky to have us and I would like to see some appreciation.

Posted by: ericsucksballs at October 23, 2005 11:11 AM
Comment #87456

Stephanie,

I was speaking hypotheticaly.

Posted by: Rocky at October 23, 2005 11:37 AM
Comment #87464

Rocky,

Darn! I was kinda hopin’…

Posted by: Stephanie at October 23, 2005 12:59 PM
Comment #130518

PAC’s and 527’s should not be banned. Little guys don’t have the influence of the rich or powerful because not enough of them participate. If they all participated they’d have more influence than the wealthy. It’s not the fault of the wealthy or wise that the little guy doesn’t get it.

Posted by: Mark B at March 1, 2006 12:06 PM
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