After last week’s Supreme Court decision striking down significant portions of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act, some folks are talking about passing a Constitutional amendment limiting the rights of corporations to express their interests in political campaigns. In fact, some are even saying that they want an amendment that will make it explicitly clear that corporations simply don’t have First Amendment rights at all.
I think this might be worth considering.
The particulars of the case that triggered this are rather important. Some folks put together a documentary film about Hillary Clinton that was, to put it mildly, unflattering. Some folks thought the advertising campaign for the film was a veiled anti-Hillary campaign action, and filed suit to block the ads. They won in the short term (preventing the film from garnering too many eyeballs), but lost in the end.
So the crux of the argument is that corporations have too much money and can hold too much sway on elections, overwhelming that of individuals, and need to be shut out of the process to preserve the essence of democracy. How will that work?
I think it’ll work wonders — but not in ways the backers want to admit.
OK, so some amateur filmmakers get stifled. That might be a small price to pay in the big picture, if we can also prevent some other corporations from doing anything that might influence elections in the future.
Corporations such as, say, the New York Times Corporation.
Or the American Broadcasting Corporation, the National Broadcasting Corporation, and their various subsidiaries.
Now that I think about it, I believe ACORN and Media Matters For America are not-for-profit Corporations. And I strongly suspect that unions such as the SEIU and the Teamsters are also incorporated entities.
So Keith Olbermann wants to go on another nutter and slander politicians? Fine. Let him do it without the sponsorship and resources of that evil corporation that signs his paychecks. Keith Olbermann, private citizen, has the right to say whatever he wish. Keith Olbermann, employee and agent of MSNBC (and, by extension, NBC and General Electric), has no right to engage in political matters while he is “on the clock.”
There’s a simpler solution. Simply strike down all restrictions on financing of elections. Anyone can give whatever they want to any candidate who’s willing to take it.
But it’s coupled with truly draconian campaign finance disclosure laws.
All contributions have to be filed electronically with the government within one week of receipt, and all campaigns must maintain a very user-friendly visitor-accessible database of their contributors, also updated no less frequently than weekly.
Attempting to hide contributions will be punished by fines in the magnitude of ten times the amount attempted to conceal, assessed against the party or parties who did the concealing.
An idea I had a while ago could also be debated: at all public appearances, candidates must wear a NASCAR-style jacket emblazoned with the names or logos of their top ten contributors, sized in proportion to their contributions.
There’s an old description of an honest politician: one who, once bought, stays bought. This might not quite guarantee honest politicians, but it’ll at least let us know who’s trying to buy them.