Campaign Finance Reform

Posted by tigerhawkvok on January 22, 2010 11:21 in politics , news

So, the US Supreme Court (USSC, or Supreme Court of the United States, SCOTUS) yesterday overturned legislation dating back ~100, 60, and 15 years ago was overturned yesterday, allowing corporations and businesses to donate as much as they want to campaigns. Hello, Corporate America. First, I want to say this is not judicial activism, any more than Kitzmiller v. Dover was I want to say this is manifest judicial activism, as it overturns previous rulings by the USSC, as recently as 2003. However, given the current USSC makup, it is an inevitable decision. Now, since the Court overturned the legislative bits on the grounds that they were abridging the first amendment, we can figure out the crux of that past precedent by looking at what it says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There are two ways to address this: either by defining terms, or by changing the reference point. I will consider the definition, first. Speech can be defined as using vocalisations to communicate. It is thus arguable that the entire first amendment applies to people, or persons. Since the campaign finance measures were struck down on unconstituationality, we need to look at amendments, an along this line here is a proposed amendment, based on the implicit and explicit use of people and persons as the objects to which the Constitution is referring:


People, and persons, under the law, are defined as organic beings, autonomous in their healthy state, with DNA differing no more than 5% per chromosome, with respect to a mean genomic profile of 100 reference individuals, selected randomly from the population every 100 years, consisting of equal parts genetic male and genetic female.

This explicitly excludes companies and corporations, requring rights to be enumerated to then rather than explicitly granted. Wording is chosen to prevent rare mutations (such as XXY) from disqualifying a person as a "person under the law", to smooth out individual genetic irregularities, and to accomodate population drift over time.

The difficulty in this method is, then, it requires ancillary legislation to grant groups basic rights. I don't think it's much of a problem, but in that case, we can look at a second class of amendments, ones affecting campaign finance only:

Amendment (v1; microdonations):

Campaign spending is limited to $100 donations per individual per campaign, adjusted for inflation to the 2009 USD, with an equal amount of public matching. A total limit to public matching may be declared by the states, but all individuals with at least 10,000 signatures are eligible for public matching.

Amendment (v2; gross transparency):

At the end of all video advertisements for a campaign or issue, a screen not shorter than 3 seconds and occupying at least 50% of the video frame used must list the name, dollar amount, fractional ad amount, and affiliation of the top five donors to that advertisement. Subsequent text must be listed revealing the location of a publicly accessible list with the full list of donors with the same information.

For nonvideo visual media, this notification must occupy at least 25% of available space. This information must be read out for audio media.

Amendment (v3; explicit opt-in):

Groups, corporations, and other agglomorations may not spend money on campaigns unless the money used are fully obtained by group members opting in to such spending with federal form XXX-NNNN. If a member or employee does not opt in, all money and profits derived from them is not allowed to be spent in this fashion. If the profits associated with this individual are part of a composite product, their fractional work in completing said product is the fraction of profit derived from such product banned from spending.

So, each of these has their ups and downs. The first just largely scales back campaigns, and puts every person an a thoroughly equal footing. Then, corporate rights are not abridged in that campaign financing has special rules that limit donations to people, an furthermore, no person has more buying power in an election than any other. Public matching is there to help the campaigners, and low signature count allows more viable, third-party candidates.

The second is pretty obvious. By being grossly transparent, buying out an ad is much less effective if the ad has the top five donors all from AIG.

The third would be the hardest to impelement, but keeps people honest. No double spending, and no working to influence a campaign in a direction you don't like. Corporations are free to spend as much as they like, but not on the back of employees who disagree with the policies they promote. Otherwise, in the status quo, it's possible for a corporationto directly oppose something you support, and for your donation to be meaningful, you need to donate X to override what your employer spent on your behalf, then pay Y, your own donation.

In any case, I think all of these would address the issue at hand, and all in a more-or-less fair way. Of course, another funny way to look at it would be to say since corporations are persons, bankruptcy is killing a company, which is thus murder. Which is a kind of amusing idea, and just as ludicrous as giving corporations full first amendment rights.


Edit: Reflecting, on the first proposed amendment, it would also have to state that legislation granting non-person entities person-rights have a delay of at least two years. This would allow people to elect-out representatives that allot too much power to corporations again, and not have such rulings take instant effect and nullify the point of the amendment. There are also AI concerns, but then the only way to include them from here is an intelligence threshold, which excludes certain people from the legal definition of person.

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Re: Campaign Finance Reform

Rachael | 01/22/2010, 12:07

Finished reading through Atlas Shrugged again, had to snigger a bit at one of the last lines written by Judge Narangesset about "Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of trade or corporations" (something along those lines) - it really doesn't make sense to give corporations the same status as an individual - there are certainly rights that corporations have that individuals do not. *Sigh* but like you said, it was rather inevitable, especially since this country nearly owned by corporations already...