• Kevin Drum on Campaign Finance

    I’ve been asked by a reader for my thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision. I’d be overstepping the bounds of my expertise to say much, at least until I read a whole lot more about it. Given the distraction of the on-again off-again on-again health reform negotiations I may not get to it for a while, if ever. So the always level-headed Keven Drum will have to do for now:

    I’m just enough of a First Amendment fundamentalist to believe that there are plausible arguments for allowing corporations to make political contributions; just enough of a realist to think that it might not make as much difference as a lot of people think; and just enough of a cynic to think that corporations might not be as eager to spend huge pots of political money in plain view of their customers as you might suppose. On the other hand, I’m not credulous enough to think that modern multinational corporations are mere voluntary assemblies of concerned citizens who deserve to be treated the same way as the local PTA. The world is what it is, and in a practical sense corporations have such enormous power that it would be foolhardy in the extreme to think that we can just blindly provide them with the same rights as individuals and then let the chips fall where they may.

    In the end, I guess I think the court missed the obvious — and right — decision: recognizing that while nonprofit corporations created for the purpose of political advocacy can be fairly described as “organized groups of people” and treated as such, that doesn’t require us to be willfully oblivious to the fact that big public companies are far more than that and can be treated differently. Exxon is not the Audubon Society and Google is not the NRA. There’s no reason we have to pretend otherwise.

    Independent of whether Kevin’s opinion is “the right” one, this illustrates his typical thorough take on an issue. He sees it from multiple angles, all of which have some degree of legitimacy. As is typical of most things, the right thing to do here may not be so clear cut. And what has been done may not make as big a difference as some believe it will.

    Given I don’t follow Supreme Court rulings that closely I’m eager to read comments on this one. You’re smart (you read this blog), what do you think?

    • That’s okay at least you tell truth even though your overstepping the bounds of my expertise to say much.

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    • OK, Austin, I’ll bite, though like you, I am much more engaged in HCR. I just got back from being in Washington this week and it is fascinating to see how blindsided they were and how deadly inside the Beltway thinking is. As usual, I’m SO glad I don’t live there.

      Kevin Drum really has it right on the cynic/realist/etc. takes though. And I think the lessons are simple about how corporate power already works through getting the corporate executives to donate to campaigns. They fund BOTH sides so they win (or have their influence) either way. The image I had right after the decision was Burger King doing “have it your way” commercials for both candidates in an election. What most, but not all, companies will be about is influencing who is governing, that is already a problem. At the margin, on some issues, some companies may saturate races on one side or the other. So, surely this decision will not LESSEN corporate power in political decision making, on that you can rely. And, as a result and as happened at the turn of two centuries ago, we may see a new Progressive LaFollette type party arise that rejects corporate control. But the issues and reactions are complex, and the Supreme Court has knocked the system out of equilibrium. It will naturally seek a new equilibrium someplace.