Political Spending: Civic Engagement is Not a Threat to Democracy

January 1, 2018   •  By IFS Staff   •    •  
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The First Amendment guarantees every American freedom of speech. That freedom includes the right to spend money on speech. Without money, a political group cannot buy ads, print fliers, organize protests, or hire staff. Short of shouting one’s opinions on a street corner, it takes money to spread a message. Recognizing this relationship, the Supreme Court has long prohibited the government from limiting how much individuals can spend on political speech. Absent the ability to spend money disseminating political views, the political rights protected by the First Amendment are rendered meaningless.

This stance has led to much handwringing about the amount spent on campaigns, and the implications of that spending. To this end, thousands of laws and regulations have been enacted to attempt to restrict or limit political spending in one form or another. These laws miss the point. Any government-mandated limit on the amount of money a group or individual can spend on political speech is effectively a limit on speech itself. Since more political speech is a boon to democracy, fears of political spending are drastically overblown.

IFS Staff

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