By Wayne William Cipriano
The Constitution of the United States of America is a pretty wonderful thing even when you find yourself disagreeing with it. We have a method to change it if we want. We’ve changed it 27 times, 25 if you do not count No. 18 (oops) and No. 21 (never mind).
When the Citizens United decision came down from the Supreme Court we all suspected it would prove very detrimental in that huge gobs of money would be pumped into our electoral process. And, we were right! Still, it was a constitutionally correct holding.
I hear the Court (re: McCutcheon) is now going to decide if the present limitation on political contributions given by one donor to all candidates in a two-year election cycle is constitutional. They will decide it is not. As with Citizens United flood gates will open and even larger gobs of money and its influence will move from donors to candidates. As with Citizens United this will also be a constitutionally correct decision.
Freedom of speech may be most important when applied to political speech. Whether it is supporting a candidate by speaking in their favor on a street corner, printing supportive handbills and circulating them, buying a newspaper and featuring the candidate on every page, buying radio ads for them, or giving the candidate money to do all these things and more when and how it is most advantageous, this is all freedom of speech.
If we don’t like the First Amendment we can change it – a terrible idea that would do far more damage to our country than gobs of money and its influence could ever do. Of course, I could be wrong about that.
Here’s an idea that might satisfy the First Amendment and somewhat protect us from the political repercussions of that cash avalanche –– don’t tell candidates the amounts of the individual contributions nor the names of the donors. Suppose all donations were made to a ‘middleman’, an entity that would forward donations as directed by the donors but keep their names and the amounts secret. It could be a serious criminal offense to divulge donor information punishable by prison time. Not fines, not warnings, time in jail.
Donations will always favor one candidate over another resulting in unequal campaign funds, but elections are won by the number of votes, not dollars, right? And, any of us could tell a candidate we gave them a huge donation, who would know?
I guess I’m relying on you and me to resist being swayed by money (handbills, editorials, TV and radio ads, paid workers, mailings, etc.). Can we stand against an onslaught like that? Could we see through the high-dollar blizzard of campaign minutia to the real issues and positions in an election? Can we be responsible adult citizens discerning what is BEST and which candidate most closely represents that BEST regardless of how much economic pressure occurs?
But, even if we have trouble seeing clearly because of all this money entering our elections, freedom of speech everywhere and particularly in government is still more important than stopping a bunch of rich guys from running the whole show. But, as I said before, I could be wrong about that.