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devil duck

campaign finance this time

So I was reading this news story (which has very little to do with the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, or Obamacare). To summarize, current law limits an individual's campaign contributions to $2600 per candidate, not to exceed $48,600 to all candidates combined per two years. (There are similar rules about how much you can contribute to PACs and national party committees.) There's a case before the Supreme Court trying to overturn the aggregate limit, so if you want to contribute $2600 each to candidates in all 435 House and all 100 Senatorial races, you can do that legally.

Mitch McConnell, the eternal sworn enemy of campaign finance laws, is weighing in with his argument that not only the aggregate limits, but all limits on campaign contributions should be eliminated. Part of his argument says

a campaign contribution is by far the most effective means of supporting a preferred candidate, and monetary limits prevent a person from demonstrating the true intensity of his or her support in the way that someone volunteering time to a campaign can volunteer unlimited time.


Umm... no. Nobody has "unlimited time" to volunteer. In fact, we all have the exact same amount of time to volunteer: 17,520 hours per two-year election cycle. Some people need to sleep more than others, some choose to be gainfully employed, and some choose to take care of their families, but we've all got the same number of hours to allocate. By contrast, some people have thousands of times more money to spend on politics than others do. Giving me and the Koch brothers "the same freedom" to donate unlimited money to political campaigns is remarkably similar to "forbidding the rich, as well as the poor, to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread."

When James Madison wrote about "freedom of speech and the press", I believe he was thinking about public communications intended to persuade people through logos, pathos, and ethos. I think if anybody had suggested to him that one person spending more money on campaign contributions in a year than most people earn in a lifetime would in itself be considered "speech", he would have laughed himself silly.

I want to see a court case in which the plaintiff tries to cast votes in several elections in states where he doesn't live, on grounds that voting is the ultimate form of protected political speech. "After all, I'm allowed to donate money to all of these campaigns; don't tell me that the 'right' to spend money is more fundamental than the right to vote."
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