The ultimate campaign finance reform is smaller government

Image Credit: shutterstock

Image Credit: shutterstock

The US Supreme Court’s new campaign-finance ruling has prompted a collective pearl clutch  by progressive punditistan. Short version: the 0.01 oligarchs have won, or quite nearly. And now their diabolical push for unrestrained, predatory capitalism will go unopposed — except for, as law professor David Bernstein points out, “the legacy mainstream media, Hollywood, academia, publishing, the legal profession, the mainline churches, and the arts … Limit campaign spending, and left-leaning opinion-makers utterly dominate American political discourse.”

If you are genuinely worried about the influence of Big Money on Big Government, the free-enterprise solution is to shrink the influence of Big Government. A government able to pick winners and losers through regulation, spending, or the tax code is a government worth influencing, whether through campaign donations or lobbying activities. Numerous studies and analyses have calculated a massive “return on investment” from lobbying. For instance: a 2013 Boston Globe series found that by forking over a mere $2 million over two years to Washington lobbyists, Whirlpool secured the renewal of an energy tax credit worth a combined $120 million over two years.

What’s more, the reason for lobbying may be changing. Companies used to try to, as Ronald Reagan once put it, get government off their backs. But now, according to economist Luigi Zingales, lobbying has shifted from reactive to proactive, and toward getting government in their pockets to obtain unique privileges.”

Getting back to campaign finance, Bradley Smith sums up:

The practical results of this decision will be to make fundraising easier for party committees and candidates. That is almost certainly a good thing and should help ease concerns that “super PACS” are too influential with parties. Don’t expect a landslide in new giving, however, as the old aggregates did not affect most donors, who contribute to only a few candidates.

Ultimately, this decision is a significant victory for the First Amendment. Perhaps more important than the immediate result is the insistence that the government must have an actual, rather than conjectural, theory of corruption to be prevented. The “monsters under the bed” theory of constitutional jurisprudence seems headed for the dustbin.

As Justice Roberts wrote, “If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”

Follow James Pethokoukis on Twitter at @JimPethokoukis, and AEIdeas at @AEIdeas.

13 thoughts on “The ultimate campaign finance reform is smaller government

  1. Let’s try an experiment

    Deregulate murder of anyone making over $2,000,000 a year

    See how fast elites want big govt.

    Pethokoukis throws the baby out with the bathwater. We NEED proper regulation unless you think the 19th century, with child labor, no worker safety rules and massive water and air pollution was paradise. We need to get the influence of money out of the system. Some aspects of business NEED to be regulated. As Elizabeth Warren pointed out, 10 years after we deregulated the banks we had the deepest recession in 80 years.

    • This is the common criticism of those who don’t know their history but for urban legend distortions and revisionist history. Capitalism inherited the ill effects of its predecessor. And the ’08 crisis did not happen under laissez-faire but a govt strong harmed banking system that stacked the deck forcing bank to make certain loans then when it all collapsed the banks got the wrap b/c “we all know” that capitalism is evil and bankers are the archetype capitalist. Well that’s just bunk. To get money out of politics don’t ban money, ban (abolish) the means that incentivize lobbying ie, separate the state from economy. Morally the state has no right to interfere w/ two adults contracting voluntarily.

    • Dumbass, you’ve actually got some of this right, but from the wrong perspective. I’ll fix it for you:

      Regulate everyone massively, especially everyone making $2,000,000, who can then lobby you and pay to play to get one of your “exemptions” or special treatment. Then you can make out like a bandit, too, while looking like you’re actually regulating something/someone.

      Elites LOVE your failed big government – wouldn’t you if your name was S&P 500 component and participant? You can bend the rules to your advantage, make a killing, and the middle class and little guys be damned.

      Elizabeth Warren is one of the dumbest people on the planet. Not quite in your league table, though Bobby Fubaric.

    • Deregulate murder of anyone making over $2,000,000 a year

      So trading freely, i.e., voluntarily and free from coercion, is the same as murder? Seriously, puBear, get a grip.

      Additionally, you don’t need “big” government to outlaw murder. If you look at the history of the US, you will see an increase in rate of unsolved murder rate as government gets bigger. So your calls for bigger government means more unsolved murders.

    • Food is not speech. But if you are starved you will no longer speak. Tempting now that I think about it. But while shutting up idiots is a good thing, the end does not justify the means.

    • Money is not speech

      Laws passed to prevent the purchase of mediums or service to express oneself are clear abridgments of free speech.

      corporations are not people

      Can you name a single corporation the exists independently of people? Corporations are collections of people coordinating activities, working towards a common goal. Are you really claiming that when people work together in groups, they lose rights?

  2. Campaign speech by whatever avenue and method is the right of free people – free speech. It is axiomatic that liberal/progressive/socialists hate free action by their political opponents. They have all the answers to everything, and it’s all working so fabulously well.

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