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uncle ebeneezer
06-27-2011, 07:29 PM
The framers could have made things much easier if they had just used "auction" instead of "election." (http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2011/06/the-other-shoe-drops) Would love to see a diavlog on this one. Or hear opinions from legal-minded commenters.

stephanie
06-28-2011, 01:27 PM
Maybe I should start another thread, but it seems like this might be a good place to comment on both this case and the video games one.

Here's (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/10-238.pdf) the decision in the Arizona campaign finance law case.

I wouldn't go so far as to say it's worse than Citizens United -- the issues are different, and what I think is wrong with Citizens United (treating a corporation like a person as if there were no difference between a person for the purposes of the Constitution and a corporate person) isn't at issue here.

There's a related blinkered view of what free speech means that is probably inherent in our Constitution and founding philosophy -- the old rich and poor have equal rights to sleep on a park bench thing. Or, if one prefers, we all have equal rights to start a TV station. This is a somewhat narrow view of freedom, arguably (and arguably not so inherent in our founding philosophy as some would have it), although in any case something that the internet age may be making less of a problem.

But ultimately it comes down to how you cast the state action here. The law in question tries to encourage candidates to take public funding by allowing additional funding for dollars in excess of the funding amount spent by candidates who choose private funding. Not the full amount, but a subtantial percentage of it.

The majority (5) says that additional amounts to opponents are in essence penalties for speech, since of course a candidate doesn't want his opponent to have additional money. It discourages money spent as the candidate or his supporters would like -- to directly promote the candidate -- even though it would still permit money to go to issue ads and so on without affecting the public funding.

The dissent (4) says that it's not a penalty, it's additional speech. It further tries to portray the big picture of the public funding scheme. If we are to have public funding that works, that candidates will elect, that can provide a real alternative to private funding, the funding provided must be in the ballpark of what is needed to be competitive, and thus it makes sense to gauge that by the amount that the private-funded candidates spend.

I think it comes down ultimately to which framework you choose. The dissent's makes more sense to me.

stephanie
06-28-2011, 01:47 PM
Here's ("http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/08-1448.pdf) the California video game case. I'm more torn here, since the issue in part comes down to the analogy with obscenity law and what is overly vague. I'm inclined to see the statute here as too vague, but only if our obscenity law also is, and none of the justices seem willing to go there. So I end up between Alito and Breyer. It's also true that I'm more willing to go along with them because we are talking minors, although I agree with Scalia that Thomas' argument goes way too far and is unsupported. Ultimately, I'm kind of undecided here, and don't feel all that strongly, although discussion could easily change that.

A summary of the opinions follows:

Scalia writes for the majority and makes the usual good first amendment points. Video games involve expression, and so speech is implicated. We only allow speech to be restricted based on narrow exceptions, such as obscenity and incitement and so on, none of which are at issue here. He knows, of course, that the dissent and even the concurrence aren't so sure about the claim that this is unlike obscenity. There is a longstanding acceptance of violence in literature, so this is no different. The fact we are talking about kids doesn't matter, since the state can't presume that parents care or force merchants to presume that they don't in the absence of a showing of consent, and besides there is an excellent ratings system, so more is not needed.

The concurrence (Alito writes this, Roberts joins in) say wait a minute, you are presuming too much to just say that it has the same effect or is understood by society the same as literary depictions of violence. Also, the ratings system only exists because of the threat of legislation. (It is possible this was Breyer's point, but it fits with their approach.) Rather than saying you can't restrict this kind of material, the question is whether the state did it properly, and we don't think they did. The statute is too vague. While it is true that obscenity laws are pretty vague, there is a community understanding of what sexual depictions are considered prurient and so on, and that's less clear here, especially given all the depictions of violence that are and have traditionally been considered acceptable. Basically, hardcore for sex is clear, for violence is not. But if you make it more specific, we are inclined to find grounds to uphold such restrictions, and we are freaked out by the types of materials at issue.

Thomas says (okay, this is somewhat unfair) minors have no first amendment rights and if their parents want them to have this stuff they can buy it for them. He relies on original intent and Locke and so on for this.

Breyer says we should look at this as similar to obscenity laws, and the law in question is no more vague than those. Just as we know what appeals to prurient interest and is contrary to community standards and so on when talking about restrictions on sexual materials sold to minors, we know what is meant by the words in the statute here.

Like I said above, I think I agree with Breyer, although Alito's vagueness argument is appealing to me. What sways me, is that I think Breyer is right and Alito wrong about the analogy to obscenity law and the clarity of community standards. I'd be tempted to agree with Scalia just because I tend to have difficulties understanding how we can maintain restrictions on even this kind of materials, but I don't see how you square that with existing obscenity law. Also, I am willing to see a distinction between restrictions on sales to minors and those to adults and don't think you need to go as far as Thomas does to do that.

sugarkang
06-28-2011, 02:37 PM
The framers could have made things much easier if they had just used "auction" instead of "election." (http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2011/06/the-other-shoe-drops) Would love to see a diavlog on this one. Or hear opinions from legal-minded commenters.

First, I'd draw attention to the hierarchy of information. You've pointed to Lawyers, Guns and Money, a blog that is hostile to Ann Althouse, is that correct? (No, really, I can't remember; honest question) This blog then points to The American Prospect, a liberal think tank, correct?

I'm absolutely not saying they are biased and have nothing valid to say. On the contrary, I don't believe in "un-biased," but I'd like to know what we're dealing with.

Lawyers, Guns uses a lot of opinion words:


"Another key excerpt from Kagan’s dissent, which immolates the majority’s reasoning and scatters the ashes in the Potomac"

So, let's go up a level to American Prospect.

Chief Justice Roberts found that “Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and therefore violates the First Amendment.” The premises of both of these findings are wrong: A voluntary public financing system is not a substantial burden on free speech, and even if it was, its justification is among the most compelling—preserving access to the political process.

I totally agree with this. Guess who doesn't? Barack Obama. During the 2008 campaign John McCain asked about to do a cap of some $80 million (actual number not important) for the election. Obama said "no" even though he had privately agreed to do a cap earlier in the election race. He reneged on his promise because he knew he could raise a shit ton more money than John McCain.

So, then the obvious retort would be, "So, what? Republicans always keep their promises?" Of course not. But what are we talking about? A race to see who can be the shittiest? Or are we talking about defending real principles? If it's the latter, then where were Democrats when the call to fairness was made?

I'm all for pointing out GOP hypocrisy. That's why I love Jon Stewart. Are Democrats willing to point out their own?

uncle ebeneezer
06-28-2011, 02:56 PM
LG&M is a liberal blog. Lemieux is a (gasp) an admitted liberal. He also happens to be a Professor of Constitutional Law.

Yes, they do make fun of Ann Althouse on their blog. I hardly see what that has to do with anything. Her attention-whore antics and often contradictory statements make her an easy target.

I'm not sure what your point is (aside from deflection) in bringing up Obama's decision. I would love to live in a world where he wasn't incentivized to choose the way he did. Neither Citizen's United nor the AZ decision moves us in that direction. I would love to hear ideas on how to get there, as I do NOT believe that a system where the almighty $ is the key driver of our electoral system. It saddens me that any attempt by the people to craft legislation that could try to get us headed in the right direction is predictably squashed by the current SCOTUS. If Libertarians and conservatives are actively working to change things so that future Obama's would not have such an advantage due to holding a larger purse, I would love to hear how they are doing that. But saying "your side does it too" doesn't explain the merits of the system as it currently (mal)functions.

sugarkang
06-28-2011, 03:06 PM
Again, if you read closely, I said being liberal has nothing to do with whether or not I accept the argument. Look at my signature.

I do, however, want to know what the biases are. Police detectives look for motive in homicides. It should be no different in everything else we do. That obviously applies to conservatives.

I didn't say "your side does it, too" or at least that wasn't my main argument. I'm saying if you want moneyed interests to not control Washington, you can't say, "EVIL CORPORATIONS! Labor unions are cool though."

They're the same fucking thing. Believe in whatever you want. Just be consistent.

Wonderment
06-28-2011, 03:21 PM
Here's the California video game case. I'm more torn here, since the issue in part comes down to the analogy with obscenity law and what is overly vague. I'm inclined to see the statute here as too vague, but only if our obscenity law also is, and none of the justices seem willing to go there.

Yep. That is where Alito's argument breaks down. The "community understanding of what's prurient" seems archaic, if not intrinsically ridiculous. Do we know which pictures of Anthony Weiner 16-year olds should not be allowed to see? Would we rather have children acting out mass murder scenes in graphic detail than seeing Janet Jackson's nipple?

Breyer's argument, which I agree with so far, is also troubling. While I agree that we should look at violent speech (games, etc) the way we look at sexual speech (porn), the argument also seems to open the door for the "let's not restrict sex OR violence for minors."


Ultimately, I'm kind of undecided here, and don't feel all that strongly, although discussion could easily change that.

That's where I am, but I'm definitely not happy with the decision. If I had to pick, I'd prefer the Breyer argument to prevail (for now).

popcorn_karate
06-28-2011, 03:29 PM
The framers could have made things much easier if they had just used "auction" instead of "election." (http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2011/06/the-other-shoe-drops) Would love to see a diavlog on this one. Or hear opinions from legal-minded commenters.

you should watch Hot Coffee if you haven't seen it yet. oh, and have some whiskey handy, you'll need a good shot after watching it.

popcorn_karate
06-28-2011, 03:33 PM
The majority (5) says that additional amounts to opponents are in essence penalties for speech,

The idea that other people speaking is a penalty seems insane to me - but the 4 conservatives (plus kennedy) seem to be completely instrumentalist in their rulings so it doesn't totally surprise me.

popcorn_karate
06-28-2011, 03:43 PM
Like I said above, I think I agree with Breyer, although Alito's vagueness argument is appealing to me. What sways me, is that I think Breyer is right and Alito wrong about the analogy to obscenity law and the clarity of community standards. I'd be tempted to agree with Scalia just because I tend to have difficulties understanding how we can maintain restrictions on even this kind of materials, but I don't see how you square that with existing obscenity law. Also, I am willing to see a distinction between restrictions on sales to minors and those to adults and don't think you need to go as far as Thomas does to do that.

it seems that existing obscenity law is pretty much a cultural hangover from excessive christianity. I don't see why we would want to apply a set of fairly arbitrary and vague laws to a whole new class of speech. better to just dismantle all of it. no need to worry about nipples or fairy tales except as it relates how you want to raise your own children.

stephanie
06-28-2011, 04:00 PM
I'm saying if you want moneyed interests to not control Washington, you can't say, "EVIL CORPORATIONS! Labor unions are cool though."

Yeah, most people understand Citizens United to apply to both corporations and labor unions.

In fact, the only significant argument I've noticed trying to distinguish the two is made by those who think corporations should be allowed to speak in an unlimited way, but unions should be restricted. I'd agree that they should be treated the same, contrary to this argument.

uncle ebeneezer
06-28-2011, 08:03 PM
As far as corporations and unions go, I agree. They are both interest groups who wield way too much clout and I wish that the role of $ in our system didn't give them so much access to the gears of power.

Don Zeko
06-28-2011, 11:16 PM
I totally agree with this. Guess who doesn't? Barack Obama. During the 2008 campaign John McCain asked about to do a cap of some $80 million (actual number not important) for the election. Obama said "no" even though he had privately agreed to do a cap earlier in the election race. He reneged on his promise because he knew he could raise a shit ton more money than John McCain.

So, then the obvious retort would be, "So, what? Republicans always keep their promises?" Of course not. But what are we talking about? A race to see who can be the shittiest? Or are we talking about defending real principles? If it's the latter, then where were Democrats when the call to fairness was made?

I'm all for pointing out GOP hypocrisy. That's why I love Jon Stewart. Are Democrats willing to point out their own?

Ah, so if Democrats aren't willing to unilaterally disarm when it comes to campaign cash, we have no right to complain about money's corrosive effect upon our political system or to take steps to combat it?

sugarkang
06-29-2011, 12:04 AM
Ah, so if Democrats aren't willing to unilaterally disarm when it comes to campaign cash, we have no right to complain about money's corrosive effect upon our political system or to take steps to combat it?

Is it a Democrat thing to just not want to comprehend? I can understand skimming and missing a point as I'm very guilty of that myself. But at this point, there's no excuse for you.

Take a chill pill. Re-read the part where I said, "be consistent." Thanks and drive to the window.

Don Zeko
06-29-2011, 12:39 AM
Is it a Democrat thing to just not want to comprehend? I can understand skimming and missing a point as I'm very guilty of that myself. But at this point, there's no excuse for you.

Take a chill pill. Re-read the part where I said, "be consistent." Thanks and drive to the window.

Look, I read your post fine and it still doesn't make sense. The complaint about money in politics is second-order. Big campaign spending isn't a problem per se, the problem is that it creates a dynamic in which the interests of wealthy citizens count for more in the political system than the rest of us. It would not have made non-wealthy voters any more consequential if Barack Obama had accepted federal funds in 2008; it would just have made Republican politicians more successful. Supporting some version of campaign finance reform doesn't preclude you from working within a system that you consider corrupt in order to change things, nor does it preclude you from working within said corrupt system in order to achieve other priorities that are also important to you. Your hypocrisy allegation continues to be lazy, groundless, and an obvious attempt to deflect the discussion away from the awful implications of this SC ruling.

operative
06-29-2011, 12:42 AM
Look, I read your post fine and it still doesn't make sense. The complaint about money in politics is second-order. Big campaign spending isn't a problem per se, the problem is that it creates a dynamic in which the interests of wealthy citizens count for more in the political system than the rest of us. It would not have made non-wealthy voters any more consequential if Barack Obama had accepted federal funds in 2008; it would just have made Republican politicians more successful. Supporting some version of campaign finance reform doesn't preclude you from working within a system that you consider corrupt in order to change things, nor does it preclude you from working within said corrupt system in order to achieve other priorities that are also important to you. Your hypocrisy allegation continues to be lazy, groundless, and an obvious attempt to deflect the discussion away from the awful implications of this SC ruling.

Shorter Don Zeko:

Big money's ok when it's going to people I like

Obama said he'd take public financing, then he refused to do so. That makes him a liar.

sugarkang
06-29-2011, 01:08 AM
Big campaign spending isn't a problem per se, the problem is that it creates a dynamic in which the interests of wealthy citizens count for more in the political system than the rest of us.

Looks like it's time for that chart (http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php?type=A) again.

http://img810.imageshack.us/img810/1214/captureah.png (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/810/captureah.png/)


It would not have made non-wealthy voters any more consequential if Barack Obama had accepted federal funds in 2008; it would just have made Republican politicians more successful.

Did you want to attempt getting at least a few of those facts right?

Don Zeko
06-29-2011, 01:20 AM
Looks like it's time for that chart (http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php?type=A) again.

http://img810.imageshack.us/img810/1214/captureah.png (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/810/captureah.png/)



Did you want to attempt getting at least a few of those facts right?

That was certainly a helpful non-sequitur.

Don Zeko
06-29-2011, 01:43 AM
Looks like it's time for that chart (http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php?type=A) again.

http://img810.imageshack.us/img810/1214/captureah.png (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/810/captureah.png/)



Did you want to attempt getting at least a few of those facts right?

Hell. non-sequitur or not, let's point out how this is a stupid way of avoiding the real issue. For starters, you've cropped that screen-grab in a misleading way. While Democrats get a larger share of the top 10, if you add the rest of the chart and tally the results, the numbers are much closer. For a rough idea, the total spent by organizations tilting 50% or more towards Democrats in that chart was $949.8 million, while organizations tilting 50% or more Republican gave $957.7 million. Beyond that, your chart only adds up to about $2 billion spent in the last 30 years. I haven't been able to find a total for all election spending in that period, but it's going to be far more than what's spent by the top 140 organizations, seeing as the 2008 presidential election alone cost $1.8 billion. I don't have the data on hand explaining how much more money is out there and who's spending it, but absent more complete data I think you ought to back off of your "unions are outspending corporations" line. While I'm at it, starting the clock in 1989 leaves out the period in the 1980's when Republican outreach to big business created a major money gap between the two parties that was only closed when Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, aped Republican fundraising targets and techniques.

And even if you weren't looking at a sliver of the data in a misleading way in order to make a partisan point, you'd still be unresponsive to my argument, which is emphatically not a partisan one. I don't like way that politician's need for campaign cash grants the wealthy and well-connected greater access to the political system, full stop. The system as it exists now is corrupt, both parties engage in it, and this SC ruling makes it much harder to reform it. Now, seeing as I am capable of thinking more than one thing at once, I also believe that the Democratic party is preferable to the Republican Party, that Barack Obama was the strongest candidate in 2008, and that money in politics is a systemic problem that can't be solved, or even alleviated, through one party or one politician's refusal to play the game. Feel free to call this hypocrisy, but if you do you'll be not just wrong, but cynically wrong, throwing out a stupid tu quoque argument in order to avoid actually defending the horrible SC decision that you are quietly agreeing with.

sugarkang
06-29-2011, 01:47 AM
That was certainly a helpful non-sequitur.

I've given up on you. I'll still talk to you and everything, but I'm not going to try and convince you of anything. Maybe you should get a friend to help you read that chart. It means that your labor unions and other Dem organizations control Washington.

"But so what? Corporations are evil! Labor unions are the little guy!!"

And that's when you refer to operative's "shorter Don Zeko."

Don Zeko
06-29-2011, 01:55 AM
I've given up on you. I'll still talk to you and everything, but I'm not going to try and convince you of anything. Maybe you should get a friend to help you read that chart. It means that your labor unions and other Dem organizations control Washington.

"But so what? Corporations are evil! Labor unions are the little guy!!"

And that's when you refer to operative's "shorter Don Zeko."

You are aware that I've already addressed your stupid and dishonest point at length, right?

sugarkang
06-29-2011, 02:17 AM
Feel free to call this hypocrisy, but if you do you'll be not just wrong, but cynically wrong, throwing out a stupid tu quoque argument in order to avoid actually defending the horrible SC decision that you are quietly agreeing with.

You missed where I said I want all of these fucking fuckers gone. All of these fucks. Dem, GOP, doesn't matter. Fuck them all.

And if you think labor unions are okay and corporation money is not, then say so. But don't ever, ever say you don't want Washington controlled by special interest lobbies. EVER.

Don Zeko
06-29-2011, 02:22 AM
You missed where I said I want all of these fucking fuckers gone. All of these fucks. Dem, GOP, doesn't matter. Fuck them all.

And if you think labor unions are okay and corporation money is not, then say so. But don't ever, ever say you don't want Washington controlled by special interest lobbies. EVER.

Reading comprehension is not one of your strong suits.

chiwhisoxx
06-29-2011, 02:25 AM
Hell. non-sequitur or not, let's point out how this is a stupid way of avoiding the real issue. For starters, you've cropped that screen-grab in a misleading way. While Democrats get a larger share of the top 10, if you add the rest of the chart and tally the results, the numbers are much closer. For a rough idea, the total spent by organizations tilting 50% or more towards Democrats in that chart was $949.8 million, while organizations tilting 50% or more Republican gave $957.7 million. Beyond that, your chart only adds up to about $2 billion spent in the last 30 years. I haven't been able to find a total for all election spending in that period, but it's going to be far more than what's spent by the top 140 organizations, seeing as the 2008 presidential election alone cost $1.8 billion. I don't have the data on hand explaining how much more money is out there and who's spending it, but absent more complete data I think you ought to back off of your "unions are outspending corporations" line. While I'm at it, starting the clock in 1989 leaves out the period in the 1980's when Republican outreach to big business created a major money gap between the two parties that was only closed when Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, aped Republican fundraising targets and techniques.

And even if you weren't looking at a sliver of the data in a misleading way in order to make a partisan point, you'd still be unresponsive to my argument, which is emphatically not a partisan one. I don't like way that politician's need for campaign cash grants the wealthy and well-connected greater access to the political system, full stop. The system as it exists now is corrupt, both parties engage in it, and this SC ruling makes it much harder to reform it. Now, seeing as I am capable of thinking more than one thing at once, I also believe that the Democratic party is preferable to the Republican Party, that Barack Obama was the strongest candidate in 2008, and that money in politics is a systemic problem that can't be solved, or even alleviated, through one party or one politician's refusal to play the game. Feel free to call this hypocrisy, but if you do you'll be not just wrong, but cynically wrong, throwing out a stupid tu quoque argument in order to avoid actually defending the horrible SC decision that you are quietly agreeing with.

going to make this quick, but I have no problem defending the "horrible" (if you call something horrible 58 times in a thread, it doesn't make it horrible x 58, fyi) decision by scotus. I think matching funds only really did two things, both of them pernicious. it encouraged privately funded candidates to spend more money, as the marginal difference in actual dollars keeps getting bigger with larger numbers. this not only makes people spend more money than they may have wanted to, but it also just pours more money into the system. matching funds is also essentially taxpayer subsidies to candidates. this is a much more minor complaint; we don't have to like everything we pay for, etc. but it warrants mentioning. but overall, it seems like matching funds ended up dumping *more* money into the system, not less. I also don't think it's necessarily true this ruling is a barrier to reform. I probably don't agree with your broad goals on campaign finance, but why not take a Mark Schmitt approach? getting rid of as many rules as possible would, in a lot ways, level the playing field.

Don Zeko
06-29-2011, 02:32 AM
going to make this quick, but I have no problem defending the "horrible" (if you call something horrible 58 times in a thread, it doesn't make it horrible x 58, fyi) decision by scotus. I think matching funds only really did two things, both of them pernicious. it encouraged privately funded candidates to spend more money, as the marginal difference in actual dollars keeps getting bigger with larger numbers. this not only makes people spend more money than they may have wanted to, but it also just pours more money into the system. matching funds is also essentially taxpayer subsidies to candidates. this is a much more minor complaint; we don't have to like everything we pay for, etc. but it warrants mentioning. but overall, it seems like matching funds ended up dumping *more* money into the system, not less. I also don't think it's necessarily true this ruling is a barrier to reform. I probably don't agree with your broad goals on campaign finance, but why not take a Mark Schmitt approach? getting rid of as many rules as possible would, in a lot ways, level the playing field.

I suppose I should spell out why I think this is a bad decision. My lay opinion is that the law involved is nonsense, but I don't want to get too deep in the weeds there when Stephanie, an actual lawyer, is prowling the forum. My big problem is that, as a practical matter, money does equal speech in politics, and we have massive concentrations of money in our society. The combination of these two things means that, absent some countervailing force, those concentrations of money will become concentrations of political power in the hands of the wealthy few, and that this decision essentially forbids the government from establishing any kind of countervailing force.

My attitude towards your suggestion that a lack of regulations will level the playing field is identical to my attitude towards the argument that de-regulation is really a blow to concentrated corporate power. Both arguments find a few instances of regulations serving entrenched interests, ignore all of the examples of them doing the reverse, and then make an incredibly naive logical jump to the conclusion that full deregulation would abolish the former but not the latter. I don't buy it.

chiwhisoxx
06-29-2011, 02:40 AM
I suppose I should spell out why I think this is a bad decision. My lay opinion is that the law involved is nonsense, but I don't want to get too deep in the weeds there when Stephanie, an actual lawyer, is prowling the forum. My big problem is that, as a practical matter, money does equal speech in politics, and we have massive concentrations of money in our society. The combination of these two things means that, absent some countervailing force, those concentrations of money will become concentrations of political power in the hands of the wealthy few, and that this decision essentially forbids the government from establishing any kind of countervailing force.

My attitude towards your suggestion that a lack of regulations will level the playing field is identical to my attitude towards the argument that de-regulation is really a blow to concentrated corporate power. Both arguments find a few instances of regulations serving entrenched interests, ignore all of the examples of them doing the reverse, and then make an incredibly naive logical jump to the conclusion that full deregulation would abolish the former but not the latter. I don't buy it.

re: the second paragraph: maybe. I don't know. I'm not sure it's even a position I would support. but I think Mark Schmitt makes a decent case for it, and as a practical matter, it certainly seems more plausible than the return of mccain-feingold style laws.

operative
06-29-2011, 09:43 AM
I suppose I should spell out why I think this is a bad decision. My lay opinion is that the law involved is nonsense, but I don't want to get too deep in the weeds there when Stephanie, an actual lawyer, is prowling the forum. My big problem is that, as a practical matter, money does equal speech in politics, and we have massive concentrations of money in our society. The combination of these two things means that, absent some countervailing force, those concentrations of money will become concentrations of political power in the hands of the wealthy few, and that this decision essentially forbids the government from establishing any kind of countervailing force.

That is an inevitable result of non-libertarian government. It doesn't matter how you attempt to curve it, you will not succeed. The way to limit the influence of special interest groups is to adopt an ideology that limits government activity and government laws that give preference and pork to selected interests. If we had a Congress of Jeff Flakes, we would have no worries about the disproportionate influence of special interests.

stephanie
06-29-2011, 11:53 AM
Ah, so if Democrats aren't willing to unilaterally disarm when it comes to campaign cash, we have no right to complain about money's corrosive effect upon our political system or to take steps to combat it?

It's the fact that politicians aren't going to unilaterally disarm that we need campaign finance reform. This is quite similar to the argument that McCain made with respect to McCain-Feingold, of course, although he focused more on the temptations involved with the campaign system.

stephanie
06-29-2011, 11:57 AM
I don't like way that politician's need for campaign cash grants the wealthy and well-connected greater access to the political system, full stop. The system as it exists now is corrupt, both parties engage in it, and this SC ruling makes it much harder to reform it.

You could connect this to the complaints in the other thread about the Dems changing policy as they have become more dependent on various new funding sources. Now, I'm not sure how things change if we get a lot of this money out of politics. I'm actually pretty skeptical about our ability to do that in a way that couldn't be gotten around and, in any case, a lot of the possibilities have been closed off by the SC.

That said, it's clearly not about simple partisan competitiveness as measured by the two parties.

stephanie
06-29-2011, 11:59 AM
You are aware that I've already addressed your stupid and dishonest point at length, right?

It seems to me that it's easier to argue against strawman liberal (or Dem) positions. The actual views of actual liberals and Dems seem to be, well, inconvenient and annoying.

Don Zeko
06-29-2011, 12:02 PM
re: the second paragraph: maybe. I don't know. I'm not sure it's even a position I would support. but I think Mark Schmitt makes a decent case for it, and as a practical matter, it certainly seems more plausible than the return of mccain-feingold style laws.

That's what has me so bothered. I don't like the McCain-Feingold approach of limiting contributions. I think that Conservatives make good points about the law's dubious constitutionality and I doubt you'll ever be able to clear out the loopholes enough for it to function as intended. So I had hoped that laws designed to amplify the voice of small donors might be a workable alternative to limiting the voice of big contributors. But now apparently that would be unconstitutional as well, so we're stuck without any remedy that this supreme court will accept.

operative
06-29-2011, 12:23 PM
That's what has me so bothered. I don't like the McCain-Feingold approach of limiting contributions. I think that Conservatives make good points about the law's dubious constitutionality and I doubt you'll ever be able to clear out the loopholes enough for it to function as intended. So I had hoped that laws designed to amplify the voice of small donors might be a workable alternative to limiting the voice of big contributors. But now apparently that would be unconstitutional as well, so we're stuck without any remedy that this supreme court will accept.

Let's think this through:

Essentially what you're saying is that
a) Politicians are greedy and will collect as much money as they can to get elected and thus serve those special interest groups that help them get elected.
b) In order to counter this, we need to have the state fund lesser financed candidates (I suppose this would've meant giving John McCain around $400 million).

You should see that this actually does nothing to address the problem. Politicians would continue to raise funds from interest groups at very high rates--in fact, if anything they would be inspired to fundraise even more in an attempt to separate themselves from their publically funded opponent. Moreover, you would spend an awful lot of money subsidizing opposing candidates. How are we supposed to pay for that when states and the federal government are going bankrupt?

In short, your solution would only worsen things. Again, if you want politicians to not listen to special interest groups, vote for those candidates who oppose pork.

Don Zeko
06-30-2011, 03:07 AM
Hell. non-sequitur or not, let's point out how this is a stupid way of avoiding the real issue. For starters, you've cropped that screen-grab in a misleading way. While Democrats get a larger share of the top 10, if you add the rest of the chart and tally the results, the numbers are much closer. For a rough idea, the total spent by organizations tilting 50% or more towards Democrats in that chart was $949.8 million, while organizations tilting 50% or more Republican gave $957.7 million. Beyond that, your chart only adds up to about $2 billion spent in the last 30 years. I haven't been able to find a total for all election spending in that period, but it's going to be far more than what's spent by the top 140 organizations, seeing as the 2008 presidential election alone cost $1.8 billion. I don't have the data on hand explaining how much more money is out there and who's spending it, but absent more complete data I think you ought to back off of your "unions are outspending corporations" line. While I'm at it, starting the clock in 1989 leaves out the period in the 1980's when Republican outreach to big business created a major money gap between the two parties that was only closed when Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, aped Republican fundraising targets and techniques.

I played around with this chart a bit more in excel and came up with some numbers that seemed interesting. Specifically, I went through and classified each organization into one of four categories: Unions, corporations, trade & professional organizations, and other. I then totaled the contributions of each category. Other consisted primarily of ideological advocacy groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Act Blue. They added up to $120 million, almost half of which came from ActBlue. You might object to the distinction between labor unions and trade associations, Kang, but I think it's useful to put the AFL-CIO and, say, the AMA in a different analytical category. Labor may dominate the top 20, but there are a lot more corporations on this list than unions, so labor adds up to $645 million, which trails the $812 million total spending by corporations by a solid 20%.

To get labor on top, you have to add in the $393 million spent by trade and professional organizations. Now I've defined those so as to include organizations like National Association of Realtors, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and so forth, i.e. organizations that don't engage in collective bargaining, aren't strong supporters of the Democratic Party, and basically who don't fit any meaning of the term union that people actually use. In other words, your argument about the relative spending and political influence of businesses and labor is, according to the data that you yourself chose to make your point, total bullshit.

*I would attach the spreadsheet, but bhtv doesn't support that file type. Instead, here's a screengrab of my excel sheet. I'll be happy to send it on to anyone who's that curious.

uncle ebeneezer
06-30-2011, 01:39 PM
I had a feeling the initial graphic wasn't really telling the whole story. Thanks for putting in the time and effort.

sugarkang
06-30-2011, 02:16 PM
The tunnel vision in here is amazing. If your argument is "we're less bad, therefore we are totally justified," then say so.

I don't care who outspent who by 20-30-80%. Lobbying is fucking up our country no matter who it is. Your argument is, "Democrats totally spent less."

This is the same shit I laid out waaaaay at the top.
"Corporations are evil! Labor unions are good!"

Again, if you want this, say it. Do not say, "I hate lobbyists; I hate special interests controlling Washington." Your side spends a shit ton of money to control Washington. Put another way, if corporations spend a shit ton of money, then your labor unions spent 20% less than a shit ton of money. How much did your side spend, then? A SHIT TON OF MONEY.

LOGIC. It's not that hard.

Don Zeko
06-30-2011, 02:43 PM
The tunnel vision in here is amazing. If your argument is "we're less bad, therefore we are totally justified," then say so.

I don't care who outspent who by 20-30-80%. Lobbying is fucking up our country no matter who it is. Your argument is, "Democrats totally spent less."

This is the same shit I laid out waaaaay at the top.
"Corporations are evil! Labor unions are good!"

Again, if you want this, say it. Do not say, "I hate lobbyists; I hate special interests controlling Washington." Your side spends a shit ton of money to control Washington. Put another way, if corporations spend a shit ton of money, then your labor unions spent 20% less than a shit ton of money. How much did your side spend, then? A SHIT TON OF MONEY.

LOGIC. It's not that hard.

This isn't what you were saying earlier, and it's not what I was saying ever. You're better off not responding if you're not going to cop to your dishonest use of that graph.

sugarkang
06-30-2011, 02:57 PM
This isn't what you were saying earlier, and it's not what I was saying ever. You're better off not responding if you're not going to cop to your dishonest use of that graph.

Okay, you're referring to the first quote here:
Big campaign spending isn't a problem per se, the problem is that it creates a dynamic in which the interests of wealthy citizens count for more in the political system than the rest of us.

Is this it? Because I posted the graph in the same post. This is it, right? Okay, if your calculations are correct and I'll just take your word that they are, then yes, you're right as a technical matter.

Though, I don't understand, is that your real argument? That basically it's okay that both sides spend a shit ton of money (big spending not a problem per se), but the real problem is that Republicans spend 20% more? That's your argument? Really?

Yeah, I admit I've made a technical mistake, but I was really doing you a favor.

uncle ebeneezer
06-30-2011, 03:00 PM
I feel like both myself and Zeke (and probably others) have said we don't like the amount of $ and the influence by those who have lots of it (whether they are unions or corporations or whomever) in our current system and how we are interested in discussions of how to change that.

Me: I would love to live in a world where he wasn't incentivized to choose the way he did. Neither Citizen's United nor the AZ decision moves us in that direction. I would love to hear ideas on how to get there, as I do NOT believe that a system where the almighty $ is the key driver of our electoral system (added: "is a good thing.) Sorry I forgot to finish the sentence but I think it was pretty clear where I was headed.

DZ: My big problem is that, as a practical matter, money does equal speech in politics, and we have massive concentrations of money in our society.

stephanie
06-30-2011, 03:05 PM
Though, I don't understand, is that your real argument? That basically it's okay that both sides spend a shit ton of money (big spending not a problem per se), but the real problem is that Republicans spend 20% more? That's your argument? Really?

No one has said that the political party for whom the money was spent was the problem.

claymisher
06-30-2011, 03:07 PM
I'm confused by that chart. I thought corporations couldn't give directly to candidates. Are those totals just individual contributions summed up by each contributor's employer? (The last time I worked for a big corporation I was asked to contribute to its PAC, I think that's how they do it.) Also, there's this:

https://img.skitch.com/20110630-mdanrwaej3i74sr7ewe18yu4e5.jpg

http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?indexType=s

sugarkang
06-30-2011, 03:15 PM
I'm going to have to spend less time on these forums. I mean I understand tribalism, but this shit is ridiculous. See ya guys. (I'll be back in like two weeks)

graz
06-30-2011, 03:27 PM
I'm going to have to spend less time on these forums. I mean I understand tribalism, but this shit is ridiculous. See ya guys. (I'll be back in like two weeks)

Advanced search: sugarkang+liberals (my computer doesn't count that high). And, bye.

uncle ebeneezer
06-30-2011, 03:35 PM
Shorter Kang: you guys are such meanies for insisting that I respond to what you actually write rather than the words that I put in your mouths. Tribalism!!1! (with foot-stomping as he takes his ball and leaves)

cragger
07-01-2011, 08:10 PM
Government action that promotes the interests of the wealthy and powerful is hardly surprising. It's been a hallmark of government, including our own, throughout history and is a completely logical activity. Wealthy and powerful elites have generally had considerable control over governments, and it is both predictable and observable that governments will largely persue the interests of the controlling parties. I'd go so far as to say that government is the single most effective instrument ever devised for the persuit of the interests of the controlling parties.

Our US government began as the province of an elite of wealthy white males, and it is a relatively recent phenomenon that the voting franchise was made effectively universal. The subsequent decades encompass the progressive era in which we have seen the government stop using its force to break strikes and heads, make some attempts to limit the ability of wealthy elites to steal from the population at large through pushing external costs upon them, and so on. These recent events are just the highest and most obvious peaks of the wave of organized push-back from wealthy forces working toward returning the levers of power to their control to the extent, apparently considerable, that they are able.

rfrobison
07-02-2011, 03:47 AM
Chiwi: This isn't a substantive point so feel free to ignore it if you like, but it would be easier to read your posts if you'd insert a few paragraph breaks.

sugarkang
07-04-2011, 06:09 AM
I finally read the opinion in Arizona v. Bennett. I've provided actual quotes and plain language (layman) interpretations side by side for easy comparison in case anyone wants to know what actually happened.


Kagan (Dissent): Next, the majority notes that the Act allows participating candidates to accept private contributions if (but only if) the State cannot provide the funds it has promised (forexample, because of a budget crisis). Ante, at 23 (citing§16–954(F)). That provision, the majority argues, shows that when push comes to shove, the State cares more about “leveling” than about fighting corruption. Ante, at 23. But this is a plain misreading of the law. All the statute does is …

Layman Kagan: Arizona is not trying to “level the playing field.” It’s true, if that were the justification, the law would not be valid. Rather, Arizona is trying to “fight corruption,” which is a perfectly valid justification for abridging freedom of speech.


Roberts 1 (Majority): “Leveling the playing field” can sound like a good thing. But in a democracy, campaigning for office is not a game. It is a critically important form of speech. The First Amendment embodies our choice as a Nation that, when it comes to such speech, the guiding principle is freedom—the “unfettered interchange of ideas”—not whatever the State may view as fair.

Layman Roberts 1: Leveling the playing field is some shit that voters would probably think is a good idea. However, the U.S. Supreme Fucking Court doesn’t decide by its own arbitrary whim what is or is not fair. If NAMBLA is supported by 0.001% of the population, we’re not going to all of a sudden mandate that they get 50% airtime. Fair is subjective and so we don't go mucking about with the marketplace of ideas.


Roberts 2: But it is not the amount of funding that the State provides that is constitutionally problematic. It is the manner in which that funding is provided—in direct response to the political speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups.

Layman Roberts 2: In response to Kagan's strawman about leveling the playing field: we don’t give a shit if you want to level the playing field or not; it’s not even the relevant issue and certainly not the justification for our ruling. You can pass a campaign finance law based on leveling the playing field, if you like. Arizona is free to rewrite the laws to make it fair and constitutional.

How is the “liberal” court trying to limit speech? Here's an example: let's say that Candidate Gay (Democrat) is privately financed and is running against Mike Huckabee (Republican) who is publicly financed. Every time Candidate Gay spends $1, Huckabee gets a matching $1 from public funds. Well, shit. This is no good. Why would Candidate Gay spend any money? It's just going to get matched by public funds "for free." That amounts to free, anti-gay marriage money paid by public taxes. Candidate Gay feels that he cannot exercise his political speech by using private contributions from his donors.


Roberts 3: Evaluating the wisdom of public financing as a means of funding political candidacy is not the Court’s business.

Layman Roberts 3: We uphold principles, even when we dislike the outcome. If you want to pass a law that levels the playing field, please fucking rewrite it so that it doesn't conflict with our most important right: freedom of fucking speech. You do not use the United States Supreme Court to do social engineering at your whim. We are a government of laws, not of women who eat at Chinese restaurants on Christmas.

Where the fuck is Justice Brennan when you need him?