In a relative rarirty, Tim Patterson completely struck out in last night’s post regarding campaign finance.
The one thing that I agree with him on is the need for transparency when it comes to campaign finance., and that all of the information regarding who is donating to what in a timely manner. But his other suggestions have constitutional problems (seeing that the Supreme Court has ruled that campaign contributions are free speech in Buckley v. Valeo) as well moving the problem of money in politics back behind closed doors.
Let’s take the suggestions one at a time:
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First, we should ban donations to political campaigns from corporations, businesses, LLCs, LLPs, etc.
Corporate contributions are banned at the Federal level, but not at the State level. However, my understanding of corporations is that corporations generally speaking have the same rights as individuals, so banning political contributions from these entities seems to not pass constitutional muster
Second, we should ban the creation of Political Action Committees by corporations (such as the 1st Mariner Bank PAC, for instance) and businesses.
This is similar to the issue with the corporations. Aggregations of individuals coming together for a political purpose have rights of free speech.
Third, every single dollar of every single donation must be tied to a registered voter, and every single dollar and every single donor should be reported within 72 hours and published on a website. In short, we elminate the bundling of donations through organizations, companies, PACs, 527s, etc. Get rid of all of it, and remove the donation caps. Every donation must be tied to a registered voter. If you want to give, you have to register to vote. And companies can’t register to vote.
Another constitutional problem, in that it segregates people from participating in the political process. People have a right to participate in the process without registering to vote, and people also have a fundamental right to not register to vote if they so choose. Why should somebody be forced to register to vote to support a candidate. Furthermore, how would the suggestion pass muster. Who decides who is and who is not registered? If I live in District 31 and want to donate to a candidate in District 32, am I forbidden from this because I am not a registered voter in their district?
Fourth, ban the provision of in-kind services by anyone other than a registered voter. Don’t let businesses turn their properties into giant advertising billboards for candidates.
Again, companies have a right to free speech and supporting a candidate of their choosing. I do not see harm in this anyway, as their contributions count against the current limit and it actually reduces the need for candidates to raise more money.
Fifth, require every elected official to publish to their constituents once during their term a complete list of their contributions received and campaign expenses.
This information is already available 24/7 to anybody who wants to read it. How is publishing the list going to matter?
Finally, these restrictions on campaign donations are not going to make government cleaner. It’s just going to push government back towards the usual run-of-the-mill, backdoor corruption like we have seen with Sheila Dixon, Tommy Bromwell, et. al.
I agree with the sentiment that campaign finance laws need to be more transparent in an effort to clean up government. But the only real way to do that is to completely eliminate restrictions on how much candidates can raise from individuals and businesses, as well as restrictions on the amount donors can contribute during a four-year cycle. It is much more transparent if Joe Sixpack give $500,000 to a candidate or candidates than to sax Joe Sixpack gave $4,000 to one candidate, and spread an additional $496,000 across a bunch of different variations of Joe Sixpack LLC. But to make it more transparent, weekly donor reports need to be required in order to allow donations to be recorded and made public as soon as possible.
We need more transparency, but not at the cost of free speech.