“Citizens United: The end of Democracy as we know it.”

We love the campaign finance reform community. Almost every day, they give us something to chuckle about. For example, the Louisiana State Bar Association featured a debate yesterday between Jim Bopp and Robert Weissman under the title “Citizens United v. FEC: The End of Democracy as We Know It?”

Is that even debateable? Since January 2010, there have been no elections, have there? No attack ads! Where has all the fundraising gone that we used to have before? Do political parties still exist? Insipid “Fact Check” features in newspapers? All gone. There are no longer scandals – no Bob Ney or Duke Cunningham or William Jefferson. No more idle campaign promises to sort through. Oh sure, Robert Weissman and Public Citizen are still around hectoring and bothering people and trying to restrict our speech rights, but otherwise, everything’s changed, hasn’t it?

I mean, is the question even debatable?

From the topic, you wouldn’t know that prior to Citizens United, 26 states – including host Louisiana – allowed UNLIMITED, SECRET, UNDISCLOSED corporate spending in elections!

From the topic, you wouldn’t know that prior to the 2003-04 election cycle, corporations could participate in federal elections with UNLIMITED, SECRET, UNDISCLOSED spending on “issue ads,” which the Supreme Court recognized in Buckley v. Valeo would often be confused with “campaign ads,” and which reformers claimed in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC were even worse than “campaign ads.” Then there was the brief, golden era – the campaigns of 2004 and 2006 and 2008, when McCain-Feingold was the law of the land, and there were no groups like Swift Boat Veterans for truth, no allegations of a presidential candidate accepting foreign money, no scandals like Mark Foley, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, no $750 million presidential campaigns, no tax cheats nominated to high office, and most importantly, no recession, no banking collapse, and no deficit spending. Then came Citizens United, and “the end of democracy as we know it.”

From the topic, you wouldn’t know that Harry Truman, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, and John Kennedy were elected with UNLIMITED, SECRET, UNDISCLOSED spending.

The end of democracy as we know it? Well, if that means the end of our 40 year experiment with government playing speech referee, the end of record fundraising advantages and re-election rates for incumbents that coincided with the rise of the “reform community” and its regulatory regime; the end of the FEC harassing citizens for their political activity; and the end of a regulation as a weapon to silence one’s political opponents, we could all support that. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is what they mean.

Still at least it’s funny. The end of democracy as we know it. Chuckle.

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