Public funding and the Arizona decision

The North West Florida Daily News had an editorial this weekend lauding the Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett:

On principle, we shudder anytime government tries to solve a problem by subsidizing it. That’s especially frightening in the area of political campaigns, where government subsidies favor some political opinions and can determine the outcome of an election.

There are also practical obstacles with a publicly financed system, namely, that it can be easily manipulated by savvy political consultants. Campaigns are successful because of effective targeting, tailoring a message to each political demographic. Under a publicly financed system, nothing can stop a union from triggering additional funds for their chosen candidate by launching a “phony” independent expenditure with “bad” targeting. After all, taxpayers are footing the bill so there’s no risk to such creative campaigning.    

The editorial continues, quoting our own Brad smith:

Think about last year’s decision in Citizens United: Four justices thought it was perfectly OK for the government to censor the distribution or showing of a political movie,” he warned.  

We don’t expect this decision to stop or even slow down advocates of campaign finance reform because, in Smith’s words, “they see free speech as a threat to democracy, rather than as essential to a democracy.” He expects the campaign-finance-reform movement to shift away from Arizona’s model in favor of New York City’s approach, which matches every small contribution with $6 in taxpayer-funded subsidies. 

Somehow, “reformers” came to the conclusion long ago that money is only “dark” and “shadowy” if it comes from people or organizations they disagree with.  It’s amusing how money is plain old green if it comes from the government.

Link to article



The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.