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I may be changing my mind on campaign finance reform

by Greg Krehbiel on 20 February 2013

My first reaction to the idea that the government can limit the amount a person can contribute to a campaign or to a political cause was very negative. It seemed to be a straight-forward matter of free speech. E.g., if I want to buy and distribute 300 million copies of a political tract, that’s my business, and I don’t see how that’s any different from giving the same amount of money to a political candidate.

However, that approach could be seen to conflict with the idea of decentralized power and checks and balances — which I tend to view as one of, if not the, most important political issue.

Why does Rhode Island get as many senators as Texas? Why does the senate have to approve many of the things the president wants to do? Why are certain powers reserved to the states and the people (at least in theory)?

It’s to distribute power, and to use the natural competitiveness of each interest group as a check on everybody else.

So while I value free speech, I also value keeping any group from having too much power. In this case, I don’t want the rich to rule the political process.

Campaign finance reform might be necessary for that reason.

See SCOTUS Poised To Take Next Step On the Road To Total Political Domination By The Wealthy?

-- 2013-02-20  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 4

  1. Ken Crawford
    20 February 2013 @ 11:07 am

    I think it is time for America to start thinking about a constitutional amendment on the issue. Frankly, I don’t know what it should say, because this is a VERY sticky business, which is why it is time for people to submit their ideas for what it should say and allow a national discussion on the subject.

    My first thought on the subject is we might be able to solve all of this with an amendment that says “Corporations are not people”. But I’ve heard some arguments that suggest that is not a wise way to go… so I don’t know really.

    But it’s time this is a front page discussion.

  2. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    20 February 2013 @ 11:17 am

    The “corporations are people” thing definitely needs a thorough airing, but there’s still the issue of rich individuals having too much say in the political process.

  3. DSM
    20 February 2013 @ 11:26 am

    “Corporations are not people”.

    You’ve accidentally hit on one of my pet peeves. Rant to follow, but it’s not aimed at you, more the world at large. :^)

    No one ever said corporations were people; the argument is that they’re legal persons.

    Look at it this way. Can you sue a table? No. Can you sue a human being? Yes. Should you be able to sue a corporation? Yes. So we need a phrase in law for “something you can sue, with rights and responsibilities, including human beings but more general”, and preferably something shorter. “Person” is used as a term of art, meaning an expression which is used in a technical sense with a different meaning (usually, though not always, related.)

    Corporations aren’t people, but they’re persons.

    Even if we grant (and I don’t see why we should) that newspapers, as corporations, don’t have free speech rights, the writers certainly do, and they’re free to say what they like, including what they think corporately.

  4. admin GregK
    20 February 2013 @ 8:41 pm

    Yes, “corporate personhood” is only intended to mean specific things in a specific context. It doesn’t mean they have belly buttons or a heartbeat or any number of other things.

    Still, it has become such a matter of controversy that it needs an honest public airing.

    I suppose I might as well ask for an honest public debate on gun control.