Rio Grande Foundation: Feldman Needs a Fact-Checker
By Dowd Muska
Over the weekend, Dede Feldman, a “former member of the New Mexico Senate who served for 16 years and was the sponsor of many state campaign finance laws,” penned a column attacking Gary Johnson for announcing his senatorial candidacy at an event sponsored by Elect Liberty, a Salt Lake City-based independent-expenditure political entity.
Predictably, Feldman charged that Johnson was able to appear at a Super PAC shindig because Citizens United v. FEC, a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, “opened the door not just for unlimited, and in many cases undisclosed, campaign donations, but for a vague interpretation of campaign finance laws that created more loopholes than any enforcement agency could track.”
Technically, Feldman is incorect. While Citizens United set the precedent, Super PACs, such as Elect Liberty, were created by SpeechNow.org v. FEC, a unanimous decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But let’s not quibble over details. Feldman admitted that “everything Johnson is currently doing is legal,” but lamented that prior to Citizens United, “there were safeguards in place that both required transparency and limited the ability of corporate interests to influence elections.”
Some of us don’t see the First Amendment as a “loophole” that requires “safeguards.” As the Institute for Free Speech explained:
“Though campaign ads are often derided as a nuisance, political spending can have positive effects for democracy. Studies have found that higher campaign spending increases voter participation in state legislative elections, and ‘that exposure to campaign advertising produces citizens who are more interested in the election, have more to say about the candidates, are more familiar with who is running, and ultimately, are more likely to vote.’ These effects suggest that super PAC spending can improve democracy by increasing Americans’ engagement in the political process.”