Consummate dilettantism!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Soft Money Nonsense!

This is an essay I wrote for school. I am now sharing it with the world in the hope that it will not languish in obscurity. It concerns soft money, and it is written as though soft money were not illegal.

I will begin with a definition of soft money from this website; soft money is
money that is given to a political party but is not given specifically to support a particular candidate. This money is supposed to be used for purposes such as voter registration drives, administrative costs and general political party expenses, but is often used by the parties to help particular candidates.
Now read the essay.

It is especially problematic that so many in our society seem to take it as an article of faith that no one individual, or group of individuals, can have more influence on government than others. Witness former Senator Warren Rudman’s assertion that those who fund political parties “affect what gets done and how it gets done.” Well, yes; that is generally the case, that is how things generally work, and that is how things should generally work. Is not the purpose of free speech to influence its recipients, regardless of the relative abilities of individuals to speak well? For one to deny this assertion, one would have to argue that all inequalities, even those accrued through perfectly honest means, are objectionable with respect to government. If a group of people assemble and, with their newly gained weight, decide to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances” with respect to, say, the rights of blacks to vote, no one, or so I would hope, would object to the fact that this group bestows more power and influence on its constituent members than other citizens possess on their own regarding this issue. Why should other groups of concerned citizens not have this ability? Furthermore, why should this principle differ when it is the KKK rather than the NAACP doing the lobbying? While the government does perhaps have an interest in limiting monetary contributions to candidates for higher office (and, in so doing, preserving the integrity of the electoral process), it does not have an interest in limiting contributions to governmentally independent political parties. A fear of political corruption extends only to certain things and not to others. Trade-offs must be made - though there is indeed some risk of corruption from money donated to political parties (as some of it will undoubtedly go to candidates themselves), the risk is allayed by concern for free speech. (The risk of corruption from monstrous donations to individual candidates is much greater, and so free speech is limited in this instance.) To say otherwise would be to embark upon a slippery slope, one which would logically lead to regulation of all political speech (after all, those who are passionate for their cause are (justly) the most influential), donations to politically involved interest groups (who in truth represent actual citizens and not mere faceless and greedy CEOs), and assemblies of concerned citizens, who, in their involvement with the electoral process, must surely be said to be greedily usurping the ability of other citizens (albeit ones not as involved with the issues in question) to themselves redress the government. Free speech doesn’t mean “equal speech,” it means free speech! On what grounds can one possibly limit monetary contributions to political parties (and thus the extension of the influence of those parties, hence free speech)?

This is to be taken apart from the practical implication of “banning” soft money. As our elected officials haven’t yet learned, it’s impossible to kill free speech and its functional equivalent, “soft” money. However much I detest the politics of billionaire financier George Soros, he has every right to donate limitless sums to political parties, as I and all other citizens do. The fact that I have less money than does George Soros is absolutely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whence the free speech comes and in what quantity. Since the government has attempted to stifle his political speech, Soros has resorted to setting up arrays of 527s groups which spend his money with impunity and with far less oversight than the Democratic Party would have. Additionally, soft money tends to increase competition. Incumbents, with their obvious visibility, will be challenged less easily by upstarts if the monetary playing field is more “equal.” Grass-roots state efforts to register voters and communicate political issues are often funded by soft money. Naturally, then, if there is less opportunity for the non-incumbent party in a Congressional election to gain influence, then incumbency will obviously play a greater role in determining elections.

Thus, the fear of political corruption, well-founded as it is, is best remedied with limits on the ability of Senators and Representatives to set earmarks and engage in other activities which allow them to favor or disfavor certain groups.

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