22 January 2010

SCOTUS first amendment ruling

Every since Buckley v. Valeo , (1976), the US Supreme Court has gotten progressively more intrusive in the area of campaign finance law. Frankly, I'm quite happy with this. Congress' efforts to regulate how campaigns are conducted are almost by definition pro-incumbent, and this is the sort of thing for which we need judicial review.

The latest decision in this line is a lot to wrap one's mind around, all 183 pages of it. Weren't we just going through a collective national paroxysm about how many pages there are in some of the health care bills and nobdoy can be expected to read these things? Its easier to read through such legislation than these opinions, IMHO.

Here's the gist of it if you're impatient.

Here's a set of reactions. They react, so you don't have to.

The President is unhappy.

So, as it happens, is his erstwhile opponent, Senator John McCain, whose name is on the law under evisceration here.

One more link, because I'm on a link-farming roll: what will it all do to the midterm election campaign? Click there for some informed guessing.

And here, in a spirit of nostalgia, is a link to what I said about a June 2008 decision by SCOTUS in the same line of post-Buckley cases.


Peter said...

On the other hand, I question the polemic that has been constructed in our political discourse that suggests that government power is somehow more corrupt, inept and inappropriate than corporate power, which is assumed to be guided by the divine and virtuous invisible hand of enlightened self-interest. How is the concentration of wealth- which equals power in my view- in the hands of fewer and fewer super-billionaires somehow not subject to the inevitable pitfalls of human weakness?

While I do mistrust government power, the libertarian/conservative polemic is way over-simplified. I believe that government is derived from corporate interests and therein lies the issue. Having the agents (Congress) of corporate interests attempt to rein in corporate power seems rather foolish. Campaign Finance reform is a distraction. The real issue is that corporate power is augmented, not diminished by the Federal Government. The government vs. the private sector debate is a false one.

In fact, less government should equal less corporate power in the long run. Limiting government is a good thing. My fear is that unbounded spending on elections by the corporcrats will serve to further concentrate wealth in their hands, and the decline of the middle class will continue.

It is unfortunate that voters allow themselves to be influenced by 30 second soundbites and cheap negative campaigning. The fact that it occurs illustrates the corruption inherent among those who finance it.

"power corrupts....."

Christopher said...

Peter, I agree with what I take to be your bottom line -- that "corporate power is augmented, not diminished by the Federal Government."

The corporations you have in mind when you use that term, though, are I submit members of a fairly small club. The small club of those who might likely be deemed "to big to fail" and receive government largesse, for example.

Lots of corporations are smaller affairs and are simply a convenient means for the pooling of assets. Some such pooling will exist even in an anarchic world when we have gotten rid of sovereignty altogether, though the names and forms will surely change.

The underlying problem is the myth of sovereignty, by which I mean the notion that law must work through a hierarchy of authority, with an unambiguous highest rung on the ladder, known as the sovereign, and that a unique institution called "government" is designed to effectuate the will of the sovereign, so conceived. I believe in a break from that whole way of thinking, which is a constraint on human possibilities. Consider the possibility of finding the "highest stair" on the staircase in an Escher drawing.

ciceronianus said...

I've been disappointed by the reactions I've seen, at least on blogs, not because I agree with the decision, but because of the quality of the analysis made: Evil corporations, evil SCOTUS majority, seeking to buy elections. There seems to be little appreciation of the legal issues and complexities.

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.