Money and Politics

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Over at Washington Monthly, Ed Gilgore laments about last night’s Kentucky primary:

The one interesting result from last night was a surprisingly easy primary win for a protege of Rand Paul’s in an open Republican congressional district in Kentucky. But Paul had some outside help. You think Super PACs are having an impact on presidential politics? Check this out from the Louisville Courier-Journal . . .

Here’s Kilgore’s excerpt from the Courier-Journal article:

[Thomas] Massie came into the race largely unknown in the district’s population center of Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties but was able to overcome his lack of name recognition by scoring a couple of big name endorsements and getting the backing of several tea party organizations.

He also got more than $500,000 worth of backing from a super PAC called Liberty for All, which was funded almost entirely by a 21-year-old Texas college student with an inheritance. The group ran ads supporting Massie and criticizing Webb-Edgington and Moore.

Marc Wilson, a supporter of Webb-Edgington, criticized the group after the ballots were counted.

“It’s a shame that a Texas libertarian super PAC could come in and invade the Republican Party to buy a congressional seat,” he said.

Kilgore comments:

Wow. Wonder if the kid down in Texas turned in a term paper to his poli sci class entitled “How I bought a congressional seat in Kentucky.”

Hmm. Well instead of tossing off unhelpful descriptors like “Rand Paul protege,” let’s look more closely at the candidates’ actual records and positions. Mike Riggs profiled Thomas Massie for Reason a few months ago. Some highlights:

Immediately after winning the election for judge executive in 2010 (a position similar to county manager), Massie began eliminating waste. “None of that necessarily included any layoffs or anything,” Hogan says. “It was just going through the phone bill for phone lines that weren’t connected anymore, electrical meters that weren’t hooked up.” Massie also cancelled a deal between Lewis County and a railroad company after learning that the county was paying to lease land that the railroad had sold nearly 20 years ago. “The county had just been paying this money to the railroad company,” Hogan says. “Thomas could never get a response out of them. So he didn’t pay the bill.” When the railroad called asking for rent, Thomas asked for the county’s money back.

So he put an end to his local government handing free money over to a corporation. And he made sure the local government wasn’t paying for phone lines and utilities that were no longer functional. He also stopped a county treasurer from using taxpayer funds to replenish the gravel in her driveway. What a right-wing nut!

More from Riggs:

Massie’s small-government instincts extend far beyond keeping a tight grip on the checkbook. He’s also opposed to the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, the police state, the drug war, and military adventurism.

Huh. If you’re a progressive, on these issues Massie is a sight better than most Democrats in Congress, no?

So what about establishment GOP candidate Alecia Webb-Edgington, the party favorite from whom Massie and his super PAC money allegedly stole this nomination?

A former member of the Kentucky State Police and the Department of Homeland Security, Webb-Edgington also helped launch Kentucky’s DHS-funded Fusion Center and told the crowd at a 2010 Lincoln Dinner, “We don’t need any more socialists, communists, or libertarians in the Republican Party.”

Webb-Eddington has also made deporting more immigrants a central part of her campaign.

On social issues, the two are virtually the same. Both are pro-life, favor fewer gun restrictions, and oppose gay marriage. So let’s call that a wash.

So what happened last night, then, is that instead of an establishment, party machine GOP operative who supports the Homeland Security-industrial state, Kentucky got a waste-cutting opponent of the PATRIOT ACT and other war-on-terror government power who also wants to end pointless wars, repeal drug prohibition, and has a record of tackling corruption. Given that the GOP nominee will be the favorite in November, you’d think Massie’s victory would be something a progressive like Kilgore could appreciate.

Kilgore is right on one point. Without the half million dollar infusion from the super PAC, it’s doubtful Massie would have won. And that of course is precisely the point. Strict limits on campaign contributions only further entrench the two major parties. If your views aren’t in line with establishment thinking, if the party machinery has backed a more traditional candidate with predictable positions, you’ll be starting your campaign in a hole. They have the phone lists, the donor lists, the existing office holders and the perks of their offices, name recognition, and the campaign infrastructure. It takes money to overcome all of that. It takes money to merely be heard. Take all the money out of politics (assuming you could—you can’t) and the two-party machinery advantages don’t go away. It just makes it more difficult to challenge them.

So I’d ask Ed Kilgore: Let’s assume the GOP nominee wins this seat in November. Aren’t progressives better off with Thomas Massie in Congress than with Alecia Webb-Edgington? And if super PAC spending is the reason why that’s now likely to happen, how does particular race illustrate the perils of unlimited campaign spending?

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75 Responses to “Money and Politics”

  1. #1 |  Highway | 

    I think another question to ask Kilgore is: Who did the guy pay to vote for Massie? Anyone? If not, how is it ‘buying’ an election? He paid money, someone used it to make themself more visible, that visibility resulted in more people *choosing to vote for him*.

  2. #2 |  SJE | 

    This also shows that people WILL get involved in politics if they think they can make a difference and be heard. Something we should support.

  3. #3 |  Tom Woolf | 

    One way to read this article is “it is perfectly fine for outside money from a kid who did not earn it to buy an election as long as the winner reflects my personal beliefs.”

    I can appreciate Radley’s appreciation for the person who won the primary, but this article would have had a decisively different slant, one against the money factor, had the winner been a DHS-loving neocon teabagger rather than a libertarian.

  4. #4 |  Fred Mangels | 

    Nice piece, Radley. You point out something I’ve been saying some time about supposed campaign finance reform/ restrictions: All it does is limit the players in an election to those who are already established.

    If otherwise half way decent candidates want to play the game, that out- of- the- area sugar daddy may not be able to help him make his case if the reformers have their way.

    Aside from that, I’ve become convinced that most who try to restrict campaign finances generally just want to restrict finances from the other side. An example being Citizens United but they only include businesses in their complaints, never unions.

  5. #5 |  John | 

    About that last question, I think Kilgore and folks like him in both parties would rather see an opponent that is furthest from their point of view, because that gives them a better chance of defeating them down the road. No matter how much better Massie would be for progressives, they can’t get past the fact that he’s a Republican. Their number one principle above all others is the power of their own party. That’s the only explanation I can see why progressives attack libertarians within the Republican party.

  6. #6 |  anne | 

    These posts are why i love this site! Keep up the good work, man!

  7. #7 |  Mike T | 

    That’s the only explanation I can see why progressives attack libertarians within the Republican party.

    You and Radley are assuming that progressives are actually pro-liberty because they make noise about conservatives on a few social issues. On the aggregate, progressives are some of the staunchest opponents of limited government (in terms of power over people) in the US.

  8. #8 |  Personanongrata | 

    A former member of the Kentucky State Police and the Department of Homeland Security, Webb-Edgington also helped launch Kentucky’s DHS-funded Fusion Center and told the crowd at a 2010 Lincoln Dinner, “We don’t need any more socialists, communists, or libertarians in the Republican Party.”

    What Webb-Edgington is looking for are more crypto-fascists and authoritarians to join the ranks of her US Constitution shredding friends (Republican and Democrat) already infesting the halls of power from DC to all fifty statehouses.

  9. #9 |  J-Man | 

    Well stated, Radley!

    Another issue with the media’s lazy and apathetic reporting is the use of the phrase “outside money.” That terminology is always used to somehow suggest that those contributing to political campaigns (anti-establishment in nature) are somehow performing illegal or unethical actions that force voters to elect candidates that they “shouldn’t” be voting for.

    So glad Massie won the primary and big thanks to Mike Rigg’s Reason profile on him. Of course, as a contributor to Massie’s campaign I am biased.

  10. #10 |  Michael P ack | 

    The truth is progressives do not want this tpye of person in office.If your against the ?war on drugs? and the TSA ,Homeland ? fatherland? security and the Patriot Act you’ll never be in favor of their agenda.Zoning eminent domain abuse,high speed rail,health care including how you and yours eat and live,how much people should be paid and how much they can keep.Both parties are afrai,d of freedom,just in different ways.Progressives are truly afraid of economic freedom and choice in how you live and neocons and afraid someone somewhere is making a bomb,smoling a joint or having unapproved sex

  11. #11 |  J-Man | 

    Also, Congressman Justin Amash really deserves a supportive partner in the House for his fight for freedom over the DOD/DOJ/DHS power complex now that Dr. Paul retiring.

  12. #12 |  Radley Balko | 

    One way to read this article is “it is perfectly fine for outside money from a kid who did not earn it to buy an election as long as the winner reflects my personal beliefs.”

    That is one way, I suppose. It’s also the wrong way.

    I can appreciate Radley’s appreciation for the person who won the primary, but this article would have had a decisively different slant, one against the money factor, had the winner been a DHS-loving neocon teabagger rather than a libertarian.

    This is wrong in few different ways. First, Massie was endorsed by the Tea Party, so you can take out that modifier.

    Second, if you think my support for the First Amendment with respect to campaign finance is dependent on who wins elections, you haven’t been reading me very long. I believe people should be able to spend money to criticize politicians because I think political speech is sacred. Also, less importantly, because I think politicians are in dire need of more criticism.

    Third, big government, civil liberties-trampling Democrats and Republicans don’t need outside money to win elections. That’s who makes up Congress. This is the establishment. I suppose my principles will be tested the day anti-war, pro-civil liberties, free market Congressmen are routinely opposed by big government, warmongering, anti-individual liberty, socialist challengers who have been shut out of government, and can only mount a credible challenge if their campaigns are financed by billionaires.

    Let me know when we get there!

  13. #13 |  tarran | 

    Damn, Radley!

    It’s one thing to punch an idiot in the mouth.

    It’s another to keep stomping him after he falls to the ground.

  14. #14 |  thedawg | 

    I really struggle with the issue of money in politics. Every election cycle it becomes more and more expensive to mount a viable campaign, leaving the proposition to those who either have money or those that have the party-establishment behind them to generate the money. That seems like a small pool to me, and does this sort of money system really foster a representative form of government? And if our congresscritters attempted to establish viable “campaign finance reform” or overturn Citizens United, wouldn’t they just use that as an opportunity to rig the game in their favor somehow? And isn’t most campaign money spent on TV ads that serve to disinform and confuse our often unsavvy electorate?

  15. #15 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    @ Tom Woolf

    …money from a kid who did not earn it…

    I’m sure that kid laughs at you from his gold toilet while throwing caviar at his dogs before playing XBox all day. One day, maybe not soon, the immature hatred of inheritance will go away.

  16. #16 |  Mattocracy | 

    “We don’t need any more socialists, communists, or libertarians in the Republican Party.”

    Someone obviously doesn’t know the difference between these three.

  17. #17 |  Cyto | 

    - Boyd –
    I thought the same thing. The only reason to include that bit was to tap in to some “rich people don’t earn their money” jealousy meme.

    To tap in to another meme up-thread, suppose we instead had a 21 year old trust-fund baby who was spending his inheritance donating to PETA, Rock the Vote and the Obama super-pac. I’ll hypothesize that Kilgore would by lauding the “next generation’s” civic-mindedness and lament that so few young people are as involved as this precocious youth. (hey, imputing thoughts for others is easy!)

  18. #18 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Since I feel very strongly that only U.S. citizens should be allowed to contribute to U.S. elections, I have to say that if the citizens of a state ant to limit contributions to citizens of that state, then I( think they have that right. On the other hand if they haven’t gotten such legislation passed, I want to stick my two cents worth in, and that offends somebody; tough.

    thedawg;

    One of the reasons it is so goddamned expensive to stand for election these days is the successive geological layers of feel-good-and-leave-the-usual-suspects-sitting-pretty campaign finance reform.

    Let’s repeal some.

  19. #19 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Ah, so because it so happens the candidate YOU favoured benefited this time, it’s fine and dandy.

    FPTP allows 2 parties. That’s what you should be looking at.

    C. S. P. Schofield – Right. Which is why the right wing in the UK favour referendums on certain issues, since there’s NO campaign finance protection for them (And in fact, no disclosure laws either), unlike general elections. It’s odious.

    (And the AV vote referendum was dominated by outright lies…while I and much of the left didn’t support AV, it’s because it’s in many cases worse than FPTP, rather than the terrible “official No” campaign)

  20. #20 |  Mattocracy | 

    Try again Leon, that’s not what was said.

  21. #21 |  hilzoy fangirl | 

    Second, if you think my support for the First Amendment with respect to campaign finance is dependent on who wins elections, you haven’t been reading me very long. I believe people should be able to spend money to criticize politicians because I think political speech is sacred. Also, less importantly, because I think politicians are in dire need of more criticism.

    Why, then, do you not afford Kilgore the same benefit of the doubt? The possibility that one absurdly wealthy person can single-handedly determine the outcome of an election bothers me, at least (I don't claim to speak for Kilgore, obviously). Moreover, it would bother me even if that wealthy person's champion agreed with me on every single issue. To quote the self-proclaimed voice of the current generation, "No one man should have all that power."

  22. #22 |  TLM | 

    Marc Wilson is a paid lobbyist and the CJ should have pointed that out in the article. I went to school with him and he’s a nice guy, but he’s Mr. Everything RNC. And clearly they wanted no part of Massie.

  23. #23 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @20 – Ah right. “Anything not in total agreement with me wasn’t what was said, so I’m going to say so, loudly, at every opportunity”.

    Thanks for that. Me, I prefer a discussion.

  24. #24 |  Mattocracy | 

    I don’t know where the middle ground is in all of this. Campaign reform favors the incumbent. How is that not influencing elections unfairly? How can you tell someone what they can and can’t do with their money and still talk about freedom in the same breath?

    Transparency seems to be the issue more and more. If you can see who is donating money to who, does that not influence voters? I know I would be more influnced by that than by what I see on TV or on bumper stickers.

  25. #25 |  Jim Wetzel | 

    Side question for Mr. Schofield (#18): you wrote:

    Since I feel very strongly that only U.S. citizens should be allowed to contribute to U.S. elections …

    Why?

  26. #26 |  John Thacker | 

    @22

    Leon, you don’t prefer a discussion. A discussion would imply that you actually read what the other person said and participate in exchanging ideas. That’s not what you’re doing; you’re merely jousting with straw men.

    No matter how many times you repeat loudly and at every opportunity your false claim, it won’t be true.

    Radley on this thread before your comment explained his pro free speech opinion. He has also been consistent on this point elsewhere. But it remains odd that a liberal like Kilgore would want to make *this* race an example of the evils of outside spending. It just goes to show how people are addicted to the status quo, including those who pretend to call themselves “progressives.”

    I happen to find your anti-free speech views “odious,” Leon. I don’t see how you can possibly claim that you “prefer a discussion” in general when you prefer rules that marginalize outsiders and make it difficult for people not supported by the existing party machinery to get in office.

    FPTP does indeed encourage only two main parties. It does not only *allow* two parties, as the continued existence of three and four way marginals in both Canada and the UK will attest. But that only strengthens the argument against such regulation.

    If the system encourages only two parties, then it should be made easier not more difficult for outsiders to challenge the party status quo, rather than letting the machine control things. If you ban spending, then the power of the machine will simply decide.

  27. #27 |  Mattocracy | 

    No Leon, you grossly mischaracterized the point and in very simplistic terms. It’s you clearly accusing someone of hipocrisy dispite evidence to the contrary. It’s not trivial. It’s not discussion either. It’s trolling.

  28. #28 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @26 – Yes, you’re trolling. Thanks for recognising that.

    @25 – Radley’s carefully explained that because he personally feels that it’s candidates on his side who will benefit, there’s no problem and no principle.

    You’re the one who’s addicted to defending FPTP, not me, and you’ll be quick to claim principles in other cases. Either the principle exists or it doesn’t, pick. You’re the one who is making sure that money == speech, at all levels and at all times.

    FPTP allows 2.x parties, the looser the party discipline the larger the x is. America has VERY loose party discipline. Oh, and the UK is back to 2 parties, hard.

    Keep spitting at me for actually wanting my views reflected in parliament, though, and not the views of Murdoch and his backers. I’ll keep backing actual reform, PR, and you can keep backing 2 parties, backing the machine.

  29. #29 |  Radley Balko | 

    To quote the self-proclaimed voice of the current generation, “No one man should have all that power.”

    What power are you talking about? The power to spend his own money to inform other people about his political views? If he were actually buying votes, that would be one thing. The voters still retain the power to make up their own minds. Why are you not just as worried about the political machinery that ensures incumbents get reelected at a rate o 90 percent and higher?

    The progressive position seems to be that government should have more more and more power over the lives and choices of the citizens, while citizens should be granted less and less power to influence their government.

  30. #30 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    To be clear, the issue is voter choice, as this amply illustrates.

    In a sane political system, people as different in their views as Massie and Webb-Edgington would NOT be in the same party. What’s happening is that the coalitions – and that’s what FPTP parties are – are making internal selections BEFORE the public get to decide.

    PR splits those coalitions down, as it did in New Zealand, into their constituent parties, and people get to vote for the party which actually reflects their views far more closely, rather than having a good chance “their” party will put someone up in your area with radically different views to you!

  31. #31 |  Aresen | 

    The “money bought the election” theme is used repeatedly by those who wish to denigrate the judgement of the voters; it translates as “the people who voted for the other guy are too stupid to know what they really should be voting for.” It is nothing but elitist snobbery.

    Also, I see nowhere in Mr. Kilgore’s comments a reference to the candidate who has so far received far more PAC money than any other.

    Hint Mr Kilgore: The person in question currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC.

    As evidence of the contempt those who favor contribution limits and bans on PACs hold for the voters, I offer the very first commenter on Mr. Kilgore’s blog:

    • stormskies on May 23, 2012 9:29 AM:
    Such another fine example of the ‘intelligence’ of a large amount of our fellow citizens. These people are in fact so fucking stupid they could not figure out how to get out of a room with one door in it.

  32. #32 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @31 – Except for the minor problem with that theory that it’s demonstrably a major factor.

    Are you arguing this isn’t a problem, or that democracy is the problem, or?

  33. #33 |  Mattocracy | 

    “Radley’s carefully explained that because he personally feels that it’s candidates on his side who will benefit, there’s no problem and no principle.”

    Really, that’s what was said huh? And I’m the troll. What the fuck ever.

  34. #34 |  Aresen | 

    @ Leon Wolfeson:

    Citation, please, with facts and figures. (From an independent source, not an advocacy group.)

  35. #35 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @34 – Sure.

    A quick pull from a database I have access to…let’s see…first 5;

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2138764?uid=3738032&uid=2&uid=4&sid=47699029818807
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304387803001329
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08838159009386744
    http://cps.sagepub.com/content/25/1/90.short
    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=6192784

  36. #36 |  freedomfan | 

    My speculation, based on past discussions of this sort, is that Kilgore is dedicated to the idea that money in politics is always evil (although some turn a blind eye when government itself spends the money) and, starting with that premise, he assumes that the fact that the PAC money that allowed Massie to get enough name recognition to challenge the establishment goon must be bad. If one reads Kilgore’s article, it’s clear he isn’t supporting an argument that the money caused any evil that he can point to (though Kilgore does seem to assume Massie must be evil because he doesn’t like his supporters). And, in fact, comparing Massie to Webb-Edgington as Radley has done makes it clear that the PAC money-enabled name recognition has given someone who Kilgore should prefer a chance in the election, which he should interpret as a good effect of the money. But, since he starts out with the conclusion “money always causes evil in elections”, he never actually recognizes that something he would think of as good happened here.

    I have to agree with Radley and others that the most reasonable interpretation of what happened here (regardless of one’s preferred political outcome) is that PAC money allowed a non-party-machine candidate to challenge a party-machine candidate. Frankly, glib summaries like “he bought the election” are trite linguistic fiction that ignore the fact that no one was paid to vote for him. It’s worth recognizing that the actual value of the money in this race is that Massie was able to get enough exposure that voters could compare him to Webb-Edgington and then make their own decisions, when otherwise most of them may never have heard of Massie and the party-chosen apparatchik would have won by default. The extra money helped the democratic process in that election. I’m not saying it works perfectly or that the outcome is always positive, but pretending that money is some sort of unremitting force for evil (unless the government spends it) is a notion that mature people should move past.

    BTW, Leon, even assuming you aren’t just trolling:

    Radley’s carefully explained that because he personally feels that it’s candidates on his side who will benefit, there’s no problem and no principle.

    Please quote where Radley has “carefully explained” that. Such support for your claim would be especially useful since Radley has stated that the principle of unrestricted political speech is one he supports (“I believe people should be able to spend money to criticize politicians because I think political speech is sacred.”). Since you are claiming his support for free speech exists only when candidates on his side will benefit, you could at least support your case with a quote showing Radley supporting speech or spending limitations when they would benefit candidates he favors.

  37. #37 |  Xenocles | 

    #1 and #2 + a million. Nothing more needs to be said.

  38. #38 |  Aresen | 

    Leon: From the abstract of the very first item you linked:

    Estimates of the effects of challenger spending are an order of magnitude below those of previous studies. Campaign spending has an extremely small impact on election outcomes, regardless of who does the spending. Campaign spending limits appear socially desirable, but public financing of campaigns does not.

    So, the very first source you cite does not support your claim “Except for the minor problem with that theory that it’s demonstrably a major factor.”

    Since only the abstract is viewable without a subscription, how the author goes from his statement in the first two sentences quoted to the position in the third sentence is a mystery. It appears to be a non sequitur.

  39. #39 |  Aresen | 

    edit: should read:

    “to the position in the first half of the third sentence is a mystery.”

  40. #40 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Aresen – You’re reading an abstract which says “Campaign spending limits appear socially desirable”. In one of five articles from a list of hundreds showing mathematical significance, as it does.

    You need to look at the raw data for WHY it concludes this. When it comes to STUDIES, as you asked for…then yes, I’m going to use my University-provided access to pull up things not accessible without a subscription.

    @36 – Radley’s attacks on Unions.

  41. #41 |  Aresen | 

    Sorry fella, I am not going to read every single article you want to throw out.

    I picked the very first one on the list, which you claimed supported your statement that campaign finance has a major effect on elections. From the abstract, it does not.

    And “I can see the figures, trust me.” doesn’t cut it.

    Also: Who defines what is “socially desirable”? (Which is not equivalent to a statement that spending has a major effect on election outcomes.)

  42. #42 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Jim Wetzel,

    A fair question, sir, which I will answer as best I can.

    First, it’s a visceral feeling; I am still working out a reason for it. It seems to me that our elections are substantially our business. Other people in other countries have a right to comment, but they don’t have a right to inject their positions into our political process directly.

    Nor should we give money to political candidates in other countries (and, yes, I expect the cowboys and nutballs at the CIA have done exactly that.).

    Now, that may be an impractical position. It may be that the best we can really do is demand complete transparency and let candidates that get donations from foreign sources deal with the possible fallout. I certainly don’t want to make it substantially harder for non-insiders to run. But the idea that, for example, the Swedish government might pour money into our Presidential race to, say, support a candidate that wants to mandate the consumption of lutfisk strikes me as a bad one.

  43. #43 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @42 – No, you’re claiming because you CAN’T see the figures in multiple peer-reviewed articles, which you refuse to even read the abstract of more than one, and are obsessing over a single sentence of (that previous studies OVER estimated a factor, in their findings), but still supports my general contention.

    Why the hell should I bother providing you with evidence when you’re just going to claim, regardless of it, that I’m wrong? You asked, you got, you threw it in my face and spat.

    “socially desirable”

    In the paper? That’d be *democracy*.

    (I haven’t discussed MY views, note)

  44. #44 |  Mattocracy | 

    Radley attacks unions = Radley only supports unlimited campaign contributions for candidates he supports?

    I don’t see how the argument, that unlimited contributions provide an avenue for challengers to overcome the inherent disadvantages of not being an incumbent, is the same same as saying “I only support this for my team.” That seems to be a serious assumption.

  45. #45 |  Martk F. | 

    The reason “progressives” favor limitations on campaign expenditures is because they think, but for the evil influence of money in politics, only a few “conservatives” would win and we would be on our way to a progressive utopia, which most people really, truly favor before they are brainwashed by campaign ads into voting Republican.

  46. #46 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Mattocracy;

    No, I’m saying that Radley’s support for free speech is dependent on who’s saying it. Corporations are fine, Unions are not. If he differs from this, then he’s certainly repeatedly managed to give me the impression otherwise.

    In fact, this is an internal party issue I don’t think the state should have a stake in. The problem is, again, that essentially one of several very different candidates is being selected WELL before the public get to vote…which is a consequence of FPTP.

    Actually solving this involves some kind of PR, there are plenty of models for that out there which can solve specific issues. (And as I said, the “parties” are coalitions, so “coalition governments bad” is what you get ANYWAY under FPTP…and it’s less of an issue with a presidential system as you have anyway).

  47. #47 |  Radley Balko | 

    I’m saying that Radley’s support for free speech is dependent on who’s saying it. Corporations are fine, Unions are not.

    Bullshit. I’ve never written or said any such thing.

    I am opposed to public sector unions. Otherwise, I think unions should have the same free speech protections as any other person or organization.

  48. #48 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    “I am opposed to public sector unions”

    Exactly.

    You’re making rights to organise and speak entirely contingent on the the people involved being *acceptable* to you. Either people have the right to organise and speak, or it’s a limited, government-given permission.

    Thanks for making it plain, again, that it’s the second for you, based on their employer.

  49. #49 |  freedomfan | 

    Leon,

    I’m saying that Radley’s support for free speech is dependent on who’s saying it. Corporations are fine, Unions are not. If he differs from this, then he’s certainly repeatedly managed to give me the impression otherwise.

    Is your argument that Radley is opposed to the union opinion on some unnamed issue, therefore his opposition to speech restrictions must be fair weather? I hope you have more than that, because that’s nothing.

    If Radley has supported campaign finance restrictions for unions, then give us a quote. After a little googling, I am coming up with nothing, but since you are so convinced of it that you have repeated the accusation more than once in this thread, then I’m sure you can do better.

  50. #50 |  Aresen | 

    *sigh*

    Let’s play your game, then:

    Another abstract, this time from your last one: (sorry, I’m not going to get signed up to somebody’s mailing list just to RTFA.)

    Analysis of the effects of the AFL-CIO’s “voter education” campaigns aimed at House Republicans in 1996 indicates that they were highly effective against targeted freshmen but not against more senior Republicans. Indeed, labor can plausibly claim responsibility for defeating a majority of the first-term losers. Thus, money spent outside the regular campaigns on “voter education” can have a major effect on election results, especially if it is spent against incumbents. Labor’s efforts did not succeed in delivering the House to the Democrats, however, because too many of the Democratic candidates and campaigns fell too far short on their own for labor’s help to put them over the top.

    Note here that the author claims it has a major effect against incumbents, but that he concedes that the AFL-CIO spending did not achieve its aim because of the deficiencies of the Democratic candidates. IOW, whatever the effect of spending, people have minds of their own.

    Note also, that the major effect claimed here is against incumbents, especially first-termers. So, if you wish to lock down challenges to incumbents, campaign limits seem to be the way to go. Making it more difficult to unseat officeholders does not sound like “democracy” to me.

    (It is also worth noting that the 1996 campaign was largely a referendum on the GOP’s unbelievably stupid impeachment campaign against Clinton, which was very unpopular with most people. This, more than anything, helped (some) Team Blue candidates get elected.)

  51. #51 |  freedomfan | 

    BTW, there is a world of difference between agreeing with FDR that a someone with a taxpayer-funded job should be not be able to get the special bargaining privileges that a union provides and saying that that person (or his union) should not be able to contribute to a politician’s campaign.

  52. #52 |  Aresen | 

    My bad.

    The impeachment campaign was 1998. Apologies for the error.

  53. #53 |  supercat | 

    #48 | Leon Wolfeson | “Either people have the right to organise and speak, or it’s a limited, government-given permission.”

    The problem is not that employees (whether inside or outside of government) have the right to organize and speak. The problem is that unions claim the “right” to prevent other would-be employees from competing with them by accepting terms of employment which the unions would not. If the managers of a private company wish to sign a contract with a union agreeing to only hire people under such condition as the union may find agreeable, such a contract may result in the company becoming unprofitable and going out of business, but people who buy shares in the company accept the risk that management will do something stupid that renders their shares worthless; shareholders do not take on any risk beyond the loss of equity.

    Although private-sector unions are somewhat limited in the damage they can do, by virtue of the fact that a company’s equity is finite, public-sector unions have no such check. If a union working at a private-sector company makes demands that are so unreasonable that a company could not agree and remain profitable, the directorship may decide that the best way to protect shareholder value is to cease operations, sell off all assets, and divvy up the proceeds among the shareholders. A government has no such ability. Further, corporations only get to play with the money of those who freely gave them the authority to do so; governments get to play with money coercively taken from the citizenry.

    BTW, one problem not yet mentioned is that unions will claim the “right” to prevent others from working under terms they don’t approve of, if 51% of present workers and 0% of would-be workers favor such a demand. That level of power, while it is nominally supposed to improve the plight of workers, actually works to the detriment of nearly everyone except the people in charge of the union.

  54. #54 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @50 – Mailing list? You’re talking cash (and lots of it) to access a some of those. I happen to have /very/ wide access since I work for several universities.

    And it’s saying in many cases it DID succeed, and with better organisation (now fully legal), it could have been far more successful still.

    It’s not a “game”, it’s using the evidence. Remember I’ve said that this case (internal party selection) shouldn’t be touched by regulation in any case, since it’s a private issue. The problem is, again, FPTP and not money.

    @51 – You’re making basic rights of organisation and speech (if THIS group or THAT group is acceptable) contingent on your employer, with no actual requirement in the job (certainly some senior civil servants should not be making political statements, but generally? Er…) for this to be so.

    That’s not free speech, it’s free speech for people based on your criteria, just as other arguments are for free speech based on other people’s criteria. Once you’ve abandoned universality, you can’t then claim it!

    (I still haven’t said what I would do for actual elections…)

  55. #55 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @53 – Then the problem is allowing closed shops, not allowing unions.

    Again, unilaterally restricting rights where no such *requirement* exists for good functioning (as it does for certain very senior civil servants or in the military) is very much restricting free speech.

    The Universities I work for have NO idea if I belong to a Union or not. It’s not their business, that’s between the Unions and myself. If there’s a strike, I need to fill in a form stating if I’m striking or not. Being a member of one of the (several) teaching unions is entirely voluntary!

    (And, for reference, I am not – my Union membership is with Unite, for my contract work in IT and I wouldn’t strike short of a general strike (which may well be coming))

    Incidentally, the most economically successful EU countries (Nordics and Germany) are precisely those who allow *sector-wide* bargaining, which you may wish to consider.

  56. #56 |  Chris Mallory | 

    Leon,
    I say damn straight, if you work for the government you should not have the freedom to unionize. I go even further, if you work for the government I don’t think you should be allowed to vote. And it is based on the job, if you want to have the full rights of a citizen, don’t live off the sweat of the taxpayer’s brow. When you put a gun in my face to meet your paycheck, what taxation is when it is all said and done, you deserve to lose the basic rights of a citizen. If you want to unionize, vote and other things, get a job doing something productive where people pay you voluntarily. If you want to live off the taxpayers, fine you should give up something too.

  57. #57 |  GinSlinger | 

    Leon,

    I too work for a university, in fact I’ve taught a class using that very Levitt paper you linked to. It does not say what you say it says. Levitt says, very clearly, that once you control for incumbency, money has virtually no effect on the outcome of an election. His point about cost controls is about entry, but as Massie in the article shows, that’s not really as big a problem.

    The rest you link to don’t support the argument you seem to be making about money and parties and elections. The one about Indian elections examines the behavior of politicians using spending to court votes (IOW, the incumbency effect), and the JBEM is about advertising and its effects or lack thereof, which may be close tangential to your argument, but it’s not really support.

    In the future, you need to make sure that the studies you refer to control for incumbency, as it is leg up in both funding and votes.

  58. #58 |  freedomfan | 

    Leon, you are acting as though a union is a simple association of people when, in fact, unions have special legal rights and immunities that go beyond a simple association. Have you ever wondered why it’s okay for union members to get together and collude on what price they are going to charge for labor, but it’s illegal for Famous Amos and Mrs Fields to get together and decide how much to charge for cookies? Ever wonder why large companies who provide a large fraction of the market for a given product or service are subject to antitrust regulation, but one union (or it’s wholly owned subsidiaries) can provide a large chunk of the labor in a given field and not be subject to the same rules. Freedom of association and unionization are not identical things.

    Frankly, I don’t know what Radley’s exact position on government employee unions is, but it isn’t accurate to portray unions as a simple association such as one that might get together to discuss a town council resolution. Radley may be saying something as straightforward as, “Union members can associate and discuss whatever they want, but governments aren’t obliged to consult with a union before entering into an employment agreement with an employee, whether or not he is part of that association.”

    But, even that issue is a distraction because the basic argument you make is that lack of support for (your interpretation of) one right implies lack of support for another one. For instance, the government has all sorts of rules concerning what constitutes a church. And, if I decide that I am part of The Church of Libertarius, God of Freedom and apply for tax-exempt status, you can bet that when I don’t get it, a judge will laugh me out of court if I claim that the IRS is denying me my right to political speech.

  59. #59 |  Les | 

    Radley’s carefully explained that because he personally feels that it’s candidates on his side who will benefit, there’s no problem and no principle.

    If you’re going to be dishonest and deliberately misrepresent a person’s position, why would you expect people to care what you have to say.

    Here’s what FDR had to say about public sector unions (I’m going to directly quote him and not make anything up about his position on the matter).

    All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

    Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that “under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.”

  60. #60 |  Aresen | 

    freedom fan

    ….if I decide that I am part of The Church of Libertarius, God of Freedom and apply for tax-exempt status….

    OTOH, if you win the case, can I join your church?

  61. #61 |  Arthur | 

    For me, the real problem with campaign finance regulation is this:

    Anyone who speaks of getting the money out of politics is not to be taken seriously. All policy moves toward this goal are ultimately partisan and self-serving. The only effective way to control the influence of money on politics is to keep the politics out of our money. Our Constitution, as written and ratified, achieved this (temporarily) by restricting the delegated sovereign (federal govt.) to the powers expressly given in the document, as amended. Ratification would not have happened without this enumerated powers limit. Of course, that limit has been eroded to a point of near non-existence and we live in an age of MASSIVE incentive for monied parties to put their money into politics as a means of taking your money by force.

  62. #62 |  Fascist Nation | 

    You people sure run your elections funny. In Arizona, they would have just had a recount and more than enough ballots would mysteriously show up giving Webb-Edgerton an easy victory. Then they’d fire whomever was supposed to rig the ballot for embarrassing elections officials into scrambling on election night.

  63. #63 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @58 – Because, absent closed-shops (which shouldn’t be permitted), there isn’t a shortage of labour. It’s no coincidence that you’ve allowed Unions to create effective closed shops, where large Unions (essentially Old English *Guilds*, rather than true unions) then exist.

    There’s a half-dozen teaching unions* in the UK, for instance…three major transport ones and so on. The biggest Unions are the ones which cross many fields.

    (*Many of which represent both government and private workers)

    And yes, it’s a simple absolute. The moment you have people worthy of basic rights, and people unworthy, without it being a necessary prerequisite of their job (again, the armed forced is a great example of where it IS necessary to give up certain rights), you’re making those rights conditional.

    (What about employees of a company which outsources to the public sector? Private companies, who have a contract with an education authority….you end up having to stretch the definition though a massive percentage of the workforce)

    And if you think some people won’t use that as a basis to attack basic rights…hah! You’re giving the stateists (it’s downright FUNNY when people accuse me of being one, given my views) a massive wedge.

    And labour organisation, as I said, is one of the keystones of the most successful EU countries. It’s a counterbalance to corporatist interests, but frankly you never seem to worry about those.

  64. #64 |  hilzoy fangirl | 

    What power are you talking about? The power to spend his own money to inform other people about his political views? If he were actually buying votes, that would be one thing. The voters still retain the power to make up their own minds.</i.

    If spending $500,000 on that campaign had such a negligible impact, then what's the harm in forbidding it?

    But seriously: most voters make their decisions based on limited information – no, scratch that, all voters make their decisions based on limited information. Emphasizing or introducing certain information, obscuring or omitting other information, is power over what voters will do because it is power over the basis for how they “make up their own minds.”

    When the gatekeepers for that information are disproportionately absurdly wealthy people with an axe to grind, that, to me, is a problem. (And yes, before you ask, when the gatekeepers are disproportionately journalists who frequently act on their own overt and implicit biases, that is also a problem.)

    Why are you not just as worried about the political machinery that ensures incumbents get reelected at a rate o 90 percent and higher?

    I’m worried about that, too. Elections and campaign finance are, to me at least, a complicated issue for which there are no simple answers. (Getting rid of incumbents en masse can be just as bad as retaining them indiscriminately, of course; when most of the elected legislators are inexperienced, the permanent class of unelected staffers and lobbyists who are experienced become all the more influential.)

  65. #65 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    hilzoy fangirl,

    “Elections and campaign finance are, to me at least, a complicated issue for which there are no simple answers.”

    My choice of starting points may be simplistic, but I’d still like to try;

    Repeal all limitations on U.S. citizens spending on political expression, wait through at least one four year cycle, and see where the hell we are. I think that most people concerned with campaign finance reform would agree that the laws we have now do not work as we would like them to. So let’s return to basics, and start again.

  66. #66 |  Rojo | 

    @Les

    So, you quote Roosevelt on the hallowedness of the “operations of government”? I’m a left-winger, but I’m a left-winger libertarian (small l), so Roosevelt’s not really an authority I tend to pay attention to.

    I would like to hear Radley’s distinction between public sector and private sector unions and not because I’m ready to disagree with him automatically (although I think that I’m rather more sympathetic to unions, particularly teachers’ unions than he is–not that I don’t think they’ve devolved into wallowing pits of self-interested corruption) but because I’m generally curious.

  67. #67 |  Delta | 

    “… under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.”

    Yes, by all means it’s critical that we not allow civil workers to resist, or strike against, or opt to stop doing the job of government.

  68. #68 |  Windy | 

    #62, Fascist Nation “In Arizona, they would have just had a recount and more than enough ballots would mysteriously show up giving Webb-Edgerton an easy victory.”

    Which is exactly what happened in WA, twice, giving Gregoire the win. I think this practice is rampant among most of the States.

  69. #69 |  Tom Woolf | 

    @Bradley – RE #3…. my apologies, I forgot whose blog I was commenting on. As you stated in your reply to my note, you have been consistent in your objection to campaign finance restrictions. Although I do agree with you on many topics, campaign finance is one we will continue to disagree on.

    (I can’t even blame #3 on a lack of coffee – I know I’d had at least two cups by the time I wrote it…)

  70. #70 |  parsimon | 

    Radley Balko at #12:

    if you think my support for the First Amendment with respect to campaign finance is dependent on who wins elections, you haven’t been reading me very long. I believe people should be able to spend money to criticize politicians because I think political speech is sacred.

    Radley, I can’t speak for Kilgore, but the objection in progressive quarters to Citizens United is that it allows for the spending of very large quantities of money by very few people in order to influence voters, or, more charitably, in order to criticize (or valorize) politicians.

    One would prefer that Massie have been bankrolled by 5,000 Kentucky residents donating $100 each, rather than by (chiefly) one guy from out of state putting up $500,000. The latter situation amounts to one guy buying the largest megaphone; I, at least, am not in favor of a society run by the moneyed few. It’s not at all clear to me that it’s an improvement over the influence held by establishment politicians.

  71. #71 |  parsimon | 

    I’ll go further, and ask: if you are also in favor of a society not run by the moneyed few, how do we accomplish that?

  72. #72 |  b-psycho | 

    If the real problem is that people vote on the basis of limited information, then the real solution is clearly to provide and obtain way more information. Perhaps a media that didn’t hold the status quo in a death grip, and instead covered all sides, fact-checked people, and didn’t automatically assume that the well-established were always correct would help. Also, on the other side of the coin, emphasize the gravity of these decisions and encourage people to do their own research before casting a vote, as if it’s important to do so then it’s important enough to seek out as much information as possible to inform it.

    Until then…well, with the information that was available, they voted for this guy.

  73. #73 |  parsimon | 

    b-psycho gets it right. In light of that, Radley’s insistence that a $500,000 influx of money from a single person out of state constitutes the sacred exercise of free speech looks a little blinkered.

  74. #74 |  Greg | 

    I read another article that quoted a political scientist from Kentucky. He criticized the PAC because he didn’t like any outside interference in local political matters that should be LOCAL! In the the very next sentence he said Massie was an extremist because he wanted to stop D.C. influence ( money) on local affairs.

  75. #75 |  We need more money in politics « Blunt Object | 

    [...] Money and politics (The Agitator) [...]

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