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Sunlight’s answer to the Supreme Court’s Naivety

The Sunlight Foundation has posted seven steps the government should take to help make campaign finance more transparent now that the Supreme Court has handed political discourse in the paid media to the highest bidders.

18 Responses to “Sunlight’s answer to the Supreme Court’s Naivety”

  1. Strangely enough (and without having any idea what I’m talking about), I had an almost positive reaction to the Supreme Court decision.

    The web give us (the public) a technical ability to track/monitor/filter much more data than in the past.

    “Legalized” lobbying (in the open) might be a better thing compared to (supposedly) regulated one that still happens through all sorts of back doors.

    Somewhat similar to the corrupting power of illegal drugs, the “illegal” forms of buying influence are probably more corruptive.

    And then again – I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  2. Here’s a simple one for you:

    Under the old rules, employees of some companies – Olbermann, O’Reilly (et. al.) could do as much issue advovacy as they wanted, at any time. The rest of us – not so much.

    Now, the playing field is more level.

    I fail to see the problem, unless there’s a part of the first amendment I missed that makes some pigs more equal than others.

  3. Two thoughts, never let the Constitution stand in the way of a law.

    Two a corporation that owns a newspaper has unlimited speech, one that doesn’t, doesn’t? How would that be fair…

    ps – In this economy you think shareholders would stand for wasteful excessive speeding in politics? I am not buying it.

  4. remains a mistery to me how so many individuals can be trapped in this form of stockolm syndrome,
    defending huge corporations that have no other interests then their profit
    and to which has been already payed almost the entire public debt of the u.s.

  5. gianluca – so you like the fact that under the Mccain/Feingold thing, you personally were banned from buying an ad within 60 days of an election (either yourself or as part of a group) – but Hannity, Olbermann (et. al.) could keep advocating right past election day?

    When did we change into a nobility based system where some pigs are more equal than others?

  6. While not a fan of political commentators, they are actual human beings and have a right to speak (even if they are employed by a media company). Corporations themselves are not human beings and do not have the rights. Corporations do not get jury notices and can not run for office, as examples.

    Corporations have far more money than individuals and can influence thoughts-that is why many of them advertise. They do the latter because it works, even when they are selling not useful or potentially dangerous items. The public (including me) do not always make the right decisions when adverising strikes. This will hold true in politics as well as toothpaste.

    Then there is the issue of pre-election intimidation or perceived intimidation when a politician fears his/her vote will anger a corporation with the potential to wage a large advertising campaign against them.

    It is not a question of whether some pigs are more equal than others. Some of the pigs are corporations and not pigs at all (although they may act like pigs).

  7. Andy – the problem is, that’s not how it actually works. Olbermann (et. al.) get a huge megaphone because they get put on the air by… large corporations. You and I, on the other hand, get to make comments on relatively low traffic blogs.

    All this ruling does is ensure that anyone can try to play the game without being stopped by the Feds. Have you actually read what the solicitor general said was covered by the law? Books, films, and, while I don’t think it came up, blog posts would likely get caught up too. So none of us with blogs would have been able to comment within 60 days of an election under the rules you seem to like, because they would have counted as “in kind” contributions.

    Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather take the AFL-CIO and (insert your least favorite company here) pushing points of view than the “cure” of being handed a gag.

  8. James I don’t understand what you are saying
    on one side I can agree with you that banning free speech, an money talk, for 60 days is not a solution

    but I don’t understand why to grant people this right you have to grant it to a corporation too

    where is the link that I miss ?
    as you well know a corporation is not a group of people but a collection of money to make other money
    there is no specific goal for a corporation, they don’t even stick to one single product, they simply have the goal to multiply profit

    do you know of one single human being that can survive only with numbers ? without having desires, aspirations, a morality of any kind ?

    this is what I don’t understand, why give corporations the same rights of people, in group or as individuals ?
    please let me understand your point because is driving me nut trying to get it

  9. gianluca – in what way are media companies not corporations? Why should they get rights that other companies don’t get?

    Are GE and NewsCorp more virtuous somehow?

  10. ok I get your point now

    very interesting,
    it looks like a system paradox

    the product of these companies are opinions, so they can t be banned for doing their buisness, not even for 60 days,

    at the same time many media corporations have interests that goes beyond communications (they can have investments in all sorts of industries)
    so they might just run for an industrial agenda while posing as information agents

    I guess this is the reason a politician has to cut any involvment in a media company to run any elected office, so their agenda can t be pushed by the company

    now you are saying, because media corps have their hidden agenda, then we have to grant their communication power to all other companies,
    at this point of the game the single voter is way out of the loop
    no ?

    then my question is

    why don’t you grant directly the right to politicians to own media ?

    wouldn’t it be easier ?


    couldn’t we do the same kind of division of power between media corps and all the rest of the industry ?

    if you run a media company you can’t be involved in other kind of companies, producing other kind of goods

    in this way, yes they would still have the possibility to shout their opinions louder then others, but it would be the opinion of a consumer not of a producer that is trying to sell you something (like a war or a private health care at inflated prices)

    at that point, we also say that political contribution can be done only by individuals
    so you have a media market that is a real market, without partecipants on steroids,

    I agree this solution sounds more like the internet then the tv, but by know you know me a bit, what would you expect
    for me it would be more fair then just say, ‘no rules, the strongest win’
    that is not democracy
    is the jungle

  11. I wouldn’t care if politicians did own media outlets. Jefferson owned a newspaper while he was President, and it wasn’t the end of the Republic. What might be the end is a huge set of stifling, ridiculous rules attempting to solve the wrong problem.

    The problem is in having too much power concentrated – it drives rent seeking. Flush the power back out to states and localities, and the corruption problem will grow smaller. It will never disappear, but we can reduce it.

  12. The equivalency you draw is flawed, James. The press’s speech is protected because it’s the press (or, as we say these days, the media), not because the press is (generally) owned by corporations. Corporations don’t have free speech as a Constitutional right; they have it only because the courts have decided (well, semi-decided) that they should count as people.

    Since it’s not a question of rights, for me it comes down to what’s best for the republic and for our democracy. That’s a practical question. Letting profit-driven corporations with money far beyond the scale of individuals buy up the finite time available in mainstream media is sub-optimal for a democracy.

  13. I am all for setting power to the hyperlocal
    and I don’t see how corporations would fit in such a scenario at all
    they are the maximum ammount of centralization of power we have after all

    james you can remove rules till there are none, but then the game is over
    as you know, to play with others we need rules

    regarding politicians and media, cosinder we are not at jefferson times anymore
    this is how it would work these days

  14. Umm, David – in what way is GE, or NewsCorp not a “profit seeking entity” ? Are you under some misconception that their motives are somehow pure, while those of, say, (insert some non-media company here) are not?

    My equivalence is not false; rather, you are attempting to solve the wrong problem with an ever more constraining set of rules. McCain/Feingold was heading to a place that would have stopped you (yes, you personally) from commenting on an election within 60 days of it.

    Sorry, that’s not a solution to any known problem. It’s the path to tyranny, plain and simple.

  15. Here’s another thing, David: Say you run a company ( a non media company). Congress is about to pass a law that will severely impact your business, and the congressman in your district supports that law. As it happens, your company has a blog, so you start opposing the law on that blog, and assert that your congressman should not be re-elected due to his support for the law.

    Whoops – it’s within 60 days of an election, and you just violated McCain/Feingold with an in kind contribution. Meanwhile (insert your least favorite political pundit here) is on TV, Radio, and the Net every day explaining why this law is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and how your Congressman is a genius for supporting it.

    Sounds fair…

  16. I guess you’ve realized by now James, that pointing to the media influence as the glaring exception, and then bringing up Jefferson’s opinionated paper as having little effect, undercuts your argument?

    My own view is, that any abuse that McCain-Feingold might have allowed could have been remedied by further legislation, as regularly happened for the previous century-plus of corporate spending retrictions.

    Juan Cole has suggested that perhaps the Supreme Court’s decision will have little effect in the era of the Internet, and someone at Talkinpointsmemo wondered if the corporations were already tapped out politically, with their heretofore legal contributions.

    My own view is, that the decision is the Republican response to Obama’s fund-raising success, and another important step in their politicization of the courts and justice system, all with the aim of turning the US into just another American republic of the kind that are many between Tierra del Fuego and the 49th parallel.

  17. Now what?

  18. But wait! There is more:

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