Another take on campaign finance

Many of you have already read the take on the Supreme Court's newest decision by our esteemed Jonathan Wilde. I'd like to add my own two cents.

First, the very first paragraph of the NY Times article:

The Supreme Court that upheld the new campaign finance law on Wednesday was a pragmatic court, concerned less with the fine points of constitutional doctrine than with the real-world context and consequences of the intensely awaited decision.

My first reaction to this: isn't being concerned with the fine points of constitutional doctrine their entire mandate? We don't want a court that's too pragmatic. Imagine a Skokie ruling which said denying neo-Nazis a permit was justified because offensive speech is not protected. [Freedom means that people will make choices you don't like sometimes, but you can't get more free by denying their choices. I don't think libertarians will argue that the actual historical decision was not the correct one.] The Slippery Slope argument is technically not logically valid, but it's often good enough for real-world application. If the Supreme Court does not defend the fine points of the Constitution, who will?

The article goes on:

"Having been taught the hard lesson of circumvention by the entire history of campaign finance regulation," they said, Congress was well justified in including state and local party committees within the statute's regulatory reach.

In other words, the system isn't fundamentally flawed, we just need another patch to fix it. This time is the charm. Honest.

The sad reality is that the circumvention is unlikely to stop in the face of one more law. If a donor can't give soft money anymore, what's to stop him from setting up a PAC or some other "nonpartisan" interest group to help his team in another way? And as the case of Dick Cheney and Halliburton shows, you might not pile up treasures in Heaven, but somebody sure is watching. (Harry Browne mentioned this about guns: if 20,000 gun laws haven't made us safe, the next one is unlikely to do the trick.)

Short of barring all contact between voters and the elected--which is unconstitutional by the way--there seems to be no good way around this problem.

Lastly, on a slightly unrelated note, the article concludes on the subject of inter-departmental relations:

Professor Post said he had little doubt that Justice O'Connor's role had been decisive. "Her political antennae moved her," he said. "Things were getting pretty explosive. The tension was too high, and she understood that the rhythm of the court's relationship with Congress had to be attended to, the pace of the conversation had to be lowered."

What's the point of checks and balances if they're trying not to seem like jerks? For checks and balances to work best, they ought to be at each other's throats constantly. This rubber-stamping of Congressional nonsense seems a lot like what Congress did for FDR in the 1930s--only this time the Supreme Court isn't standing in the way.

EDIT: Incidentally, this is Catallarchy post no. 666. Take that however you want.

Share this

Post #666 eh? Should Randall

Post #666 eh? Should Randall be called "The Beast" from now on?

(heh)