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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.”
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