Supreme Court's correct decision

Published on Tuesday, 8 April 2014 00:04 - Written by

Many observers are having a full-blown

conniption about the latest U.S. Supreme

Court ruling regarding political donations.

If Citizens United wasn’t bad

enough, they say, then McCutcheon is worse — it allows

big spenders to spend big on all the political

races they want.

They’re wrong. The McCutcheon decision is a relatively

minor ruling (affecting very few people) but

it’s the right ruling. Free speech is good, and any ruling

that makes speech more free is good, too.

“In reality, the decision is a principled interpretation

of the First Amendment that would have garnered

wide support from many on the left just 30

years ago,” the Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus said.

Put simply, the McCutcheon decision knocks out

some limits that campaign finance law put on donors

— because they’re limited in how much they can

spend (total), and how much they can spend on any

one candidate, a practical limit was placed on

donors. Burrus explains the issue here with a helpful

analogy.

“Imagine a park where people went to hand out

political pamphlets,” he wrote for the Daily Caller.

“Due to the amount of paper, littering becomes a

problem, and in order to combat littering the government

outlaws all political pamphleteering in the

park. Such a law would be struck down as unconstitutional

because it addressed a narrow and compelling

problem, littering, with a legal sledgehammer

that prohibits legitimate and important political

speech. The First Amendment requires a scalpel, not

a sledgehammer. This goes double for political

speech.”

Of course, many are warning that now elections

will be “bought.” They said the same thing about the

Citizens United decision, which allowed groups of

people (clubs and unions and corporations) to participate

in our democracy through campaign contributions.

But those dire predictions won’t come true, just

as they haven’t come true following Citizens United.

The simple fact is that money doesn’t buy elections.

This was demonstrated in the Republican primaries

in 2012, when Gov. Rick Perry’s vast campaign war

chest couldn’t lift his chances, and it was shown

even more starkly in the 2012 general election.

“The most expensive election in American history

drew to a close this week with a price tag estimated

at more than $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory

decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour

record amounts of cash into races around the country,”

the New York Times reported. “But while outside

spending affected the election in innumerable

ways — reshaping the Republican presidential nominating

contest, clogging the airwaves with unprecedented

amounts of negative advertising and shoring

up embattled Republican incumbents in the House

— the prizes most sought by the emerging class of

megadonors remained outside their grasp.”

The same thing was seen in Colorado last year,

when gun control advocates outspent pro-recall

forces 7-to-1, but were soundly defeated.

Our default position always must be that political

discourse should be free and unhindered by government.

That’s what the First Amendment — and the

McCutcheon decision — are all about. Free speech

is not in danger. Voters are more astute than that.