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Here's your free speech

Date: 2014-Apr-30           Author: Barry Shatzman

Do you think the McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court ruling was correct because it extends free speech? Or do you think it was incorrect because that wasn't the type of speech the First Amendment was intended to protect?

Either way, you should be bothered. But don't blame the Supreme Court.

Let me explain...

This is how our government works. Groups of people pick someone from amongst themselves to help make rules that represent their interests. That's where campaign contributions come in. You might think Buck would do the best job, while your neighbor might think Penny would serve your interests better. So you give some pennies to Buck to help him advertise, while your neighbor gives a few bucks to Penny for the same reason.

Over in the next state, someone named McCutcheon is doing the same thing, trying to influence who gets elected to represent his interests.

That's how our Constitution says it should work.

But there's a problem. McCutcheon, it seems, is not only giving money to help elect someone who'll represent him, but he's also giving money to influence who'll be representing you. Not only that, but chances are he's giving more than you. And there's a good chance he'll have more influence on the person you send to represent you than you will.

That isn't the Supreme Court's fault. Sure, 5 of the 9 justices said he should be able to donate to as many candidates as he wants, but even before that the law let him give to about 20 Congressional candidates that are supposed to represent people who aren't him.

Freedom of speech, you say? You can't even write to a representative that isn't yours. Don't believe me? Maybe you have something to say to Paul Ryan. After all, he's the head of the House Budget Committee, which proposes the nation's budget. Here's his website. Go there and click on the Email Paul button at the top left. Tell me what you see.

Or hey... take a trip to Washington, D.C. and try to speak with your own senator. Really, just say you're a constituent. Report back to me and tell me what excuse you were given.

Maybe he was just busy talking with Mr. McCutcheon.

To understand more about campaign financing, see our discussion of this issue.

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