Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rethinking Monetary Donations as "Speech"?

Last night's Daily Show had Sen. Russ Feingold (D Wis.) on. The interview of Sen. Feingold itself wasn't that interesting (in my opinion). But, at the end Jon Stewart was discussing campaign finance reform,1 and argued that the first step is to recognize that campaign donations are "speech." And then he said something that really got me thinking:
When you have a debate and one person is arguing reasonably, and the other is handing out $10,000 a person, we know who will win that debate every time.
At first I thought "Of course campaign donation is speech" (harking back to Con Law when we argued this). But than I really thought about it, especially with respect to Corporate donations. Is it really speech?

Do the realities of the current practice of corporate campaign donations and lobbying (i.e. a corporation having a lobbyist wine and dine, not to mention donate buckets of money, to a politician to vote their way... and doing the same thing to every politician) really have the characteristics of speech? I'm really just thinking out loud here, but maybe the original justification for thinking of campaign donations as speech no longer apply. I haven't really looked at the cases since we discussed the First Amendment in Con Law last year, so I may be way off baase, but to me "speech" is a conveyance of ideas for the purposes of good public discourse. But, a corporation giving money to a bunch of Congressmen so they'll vote for something that will increase the corporation's bottom line doesn't really serve the purpose of public discourse. If anything, as Jon Stewart pointed out, it hinders it.

Just throwing this out there. Discuss. Hey! This could be another Note topic for all you future Law Journalistas.

1 Noting that Sen. Feinfold is the one in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law.


At 9:45 PM, Blogger Asian Provocateur said...

discuss. now THAT'S a topic for cawfee tawk...

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Unreasonable Man is neither unreasonable nor a man. Discuss


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