Friday, October 22, 2010

Citizens United in Perspective

Earlier this year in a close decision by the US Supreme Court (Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010) it was ruled that a private non-profit (called Citizens United) had the same rights as an individual in intervening in public electoral contests.  The left decried the decision as a fundamental breech of democratic traditions.

But let's look at the effects of the decision.  According to a story in the Wall Street Journal in this election cycle public employee unions have spent more than $160 million to influence elections.  Major conservative groups (including the Chamber) have raised and spent a bit more than $130 million.

Most observers would argue that neither of those large forces in society have advanced the art of democratic dialogue.  But there is another wrinkle in this issue.  Public employee unions raise and expend a ton of money to hire the people who will vote on their salaries.  True the conservatives try to influence government policy but the major part of their efforts are not influencing the compensation package that all of the people who work in the public sector.

At the time of the decision I argued that it was correct.   But there are consequences from allowing these new groups to work.  They have devalued the public discourse.  It might be perfectly appropriate to improve the standards of disclosure for the public employee unions and for the other groups.  But from my perspective that is about as far as we should go.   The absurd position of the left that condemns conservative groups and ignores the insidious influence of the public employee unions is simply not sustainable in any form of logic.

No comments: