Friday, January 22, 2010

Since more than one person has asked out it, here's my take on the recent Supreme Court decision overturning many aspects of campaign finance reform (from an email):

I understand the interest this decision has generated from an intellectual standpoint, as Matt raises, but I'm not sure the practical effect on elections will be nearly to the extent that a lot of people fear. People make shit up all the time during campaigns, so having more money in the system isn't going to increase the percentage of BS because it is so high to begin with. Also, people aren't hearing much anyway -- how much effect does a full page ad in the New York Times have? I'd wager slim to none. People largely pick and choose their information sources based on what they want to hear anyway. During the recent special election, every third ad on the radio and TV was a Coakley or Brown ad -- does increasing the number of political ads from 1 in 3 to 1 in 2 really going to change much?

I do have some sympathy for the view that some little Congressman in state X can be bullied by Corporation Y, with Y saying hey, vote how we want you to vote, or we'll spend millions backing your challenger. But I wonder if this is overstated. I can imagine a skillful politician successfully parrying that intimidation into backlash against Y, or Y's candidate. And on a more practical note, the current ability of Y to donate to X seems to be a pretty good way of influencing votes.

I might just be arguing that the way we choose officials is already so screwed up from a process standpoint, how could this make it worse?