James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Campaign finance laws: product of an imaginary Constitution

For a few years Thomas Knapp has argued that, under the Constitution, there's no such thing as "illegal immigration."

He's right. The Constitution authorizes Congress to make naturalization laws, but nothing concerning immigration, let alone restricting it.

Likewise, the Constitution mentions "commerce" among the states and with foreign nations, but says nothing about what you may produce or purchase within your own state, or about how you operate your own business on your own property.

And yet the mainstream believes in a Constitution that supports immigration restrictions, and that presumes federal control of your own body, choices, and business.

They support an imaginary Constitution which gives all power to Congress and the President except what they're explicitly prohibited from doing, when the language of the real Constitution gives them power to do only what is explicitly authorized, and prohibits them from doing anything else.

Campaign finance laws are the product of this imaginary Constitution. The Constitution says something about elections, but nothing about election campaigns.

It says... "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations" and "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members."

How does this even remotely imply that the arts of persuasion involved to encourage people to vote for a certain candidate for office can be regulated? The election is regulated; the day and manner (e.g., punch hole, electronic, etc.) in which you vote is regulated. But the decision of who you vote for can be influenced by a wide array of factors. The campaign isn't just what comes from candidates, their parties, or SuperPACS. The campaign is all around us, in op-eds, in blogs, in tweets, in what your favorite comedian, celebrity, or investor says. Even in ideologically-driven fiction written decades ago with no particular candidates in mind. Above all, the campaign exists in private conversations.

This should be obvious to anyone. You can't regulate a campaign by arbitrarily setting limits on how much money somebody decides to give to somebody else.

What the campaign finance restrictionists say, however, is that Bob Schieffer should be allowed his rants on CBS, but YOU are limited in how much ad time can be purchased on television. The Chicago Tribune can make a candidate endorsement, but YOU and your friends should be limited by federal law in how many full-page ads you create endorsing a different candidate.

Even if the First Amendment didn't exist, the restrictionists have no Constitutional basis for their existing laws and long-range goals (such as public financing of campaigns). And under the First Amendment, restricting how one chooses to spend one's money in support of a program of persuasion (such as to persuade people to vote for a certain candidate) is tantamount to "prior restraint" of the freedoms of speech and the press.

Most of this has been obvious to me since I started thinking about it as a teenager. And I've long suspected, those who embrace campaign finance restrictions are capable of endorsing any atrocious law, war, program, and policy. And they have.

Now, it may be said that I'm ignoring the "influence of money in politics." Excuse me, but no. Campaign finance laws make politicians less accountable than before. Candidates who are voluntarily transparent are more likely to be trusted by voters, but what are their incentives to be transparent if voters don't demand it?

Campaign finance laws are no substitute for transparency. And what do you expect they will fix? Let's say you gave the campaign limit to your favorite Senator, and Warren Buffett gave him nothing. Both you and Buffett call the Senator's office at the same time. Whose call do you think will be returned first?

Campaign finance laws are unjust, they abridge fundamental rights, and are the product of an imaginary Constitution. They must be repealed.

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