Timothy Noah Article in New Republic on Federal Campaign Finance

This article by Timothy Noah, which appears in The New Republic, is an unusually clear article about campaign finance in federal elections. It illustrates that large for-profit corporations have generally not spent money commenting on candidates for federal office, even though Citizens United v FEC permits them to do so.

The article explains that the large spending for Super-PACS is from individuals, and is a result of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C., Circuit decision in Speechnow.org v FEC. That decision was handed down on March 26, 2010, and was a unanimous ruling of all the full-time U.S. Court of Appeals judges in that circuit. Speechnow v FEC lets individuals give as much money as they wish to committees that make independent expenditures about candidates for federal office.

The only groups in the U.S. that can’t receive unlimited donations to make independent expenditures are political parties that have been recognized by the FEC as national committees. There are eight such national committees: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Constitution, Socialist, Reform, and Natural Law. Americans Elect is not a “national committee”.

As the Noah article explains, in the past, before the McCain-Feingold law put limits on political parties, rich individuals made large donations to political parties, but that is now illegal, so instead they give it to PAC’s and other non-party organizations. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.


Timothy Noah Article in New Republic on Federal Campaign Finance — No Comments

  1. Rich *donations* (aka bribes) + marginal gerrymander districts = EVIL Oligarchs in control.

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V. — before it is too late.

    See the Roman Republic in 120 B.C. to 27 B.C. — left/right purges, civil wars, tyrants, etc.

  2. Richard –

    Again you miss essential points about this decision.

    First, it is premature to assess the full effects of the Citizens ruling before we get to the general election phase of all federal campaigns. At the presidential level, what would be the purpose at this point in the election cycle of putting money on a Republican dog that may not even be in the hunt come fall, or on the Democratic dog that has no primary opposition? Similar decisions will be made by corporations regarding senatorial races, and probably a few key congressional races.

    Second, it may even be premature to do so after only one election cycle. This economy remains in a stall partly because companies are unwilling to make expenditures to increase payrolls and production of goods and services until they are more sure of the economic climate than they are now. That same caution very likely would create a “show me” attitude about the
    “return on investment” of putting money into Super PACS in support of individual candidates.

    Third, as one Congressional aide pointed out, Citizens has given corporate lobbyists the threat of a new weapon. “Support our ALEC-crafted legislation or we’ll put Super PAC money into finding your successor.” They may not even need to spend a single dime to reap the benefits of this corrupt decision.

    Fourth, why should we groundlings be reassured by the conclusion that filthy rich people have always been able to purchase elected officials? And what difference does it make, really, that the corporate interests of a major shareholder are being furthered by a check written by the shareholder or the treasurer of the corporation the shareholder owns?

    But I’ll give you credit, Richard, for finally recognizing that there’s no real difference between the real effects of PACs making advertising buys in support of a candidate, and PACS making direct contributions to campaign treasuries. You’ve refuted that contention by me for a year now, but now it’s apparently dawned on you that that distinction is a fiction.

    And BTW…you still haven’t answered my question…asked four times thus far.

    Is a law which makes it illegal for me to buy heroin a curtailment of my “free speech?”

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