ARE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN DONATIONS FREE SPEECH 6
ArePolitical Campaign Donations Free Speech?
Theelectoral process is considered one of the most fundamental processesin the contemporary human society. This is especially considering itsconnection to democracy, which has been as the most practicalgovernance mechanisms in the modern world. It is well noted that theelectoral process is primarily concerned with the election ofindividuals who would determine the manner in which the resourceswould be distributed. This underlines the importance of this processin determining the overall safety and stability of the nation. In theUnited, there has been considerable controversy over the sources offunds that are used in campaigns during the elections period. Ofcourse, there are limits on the amount that an individual can usefrom his or her own pocket to finance the campaign period. However,recent times have seen the emergence of considerable controversy overwhether there should be limits on the amount of money that anindividual can legitimately contribute to support a particularcandidate (La,2008).This is especially after a ruling by the Supreme Court to the effectthat there should be no limits on the same. Further, they opined thatthe making of such contributions is tied to the exercise offundamental rights and freedom of speech. While there may be varyingopinions, it is evident that donations made to political campaignsshould not be considered free speech.
First,such donations allows the wealthiest individuals or entities withimmense resources at their disposal to have unlimited and unequalaccess to, as well as leverage over the elected officials, therebydrowning out other people’s voices. Indeed, there have beennumerous concerns over the fact that “hewho pays the piper dictates the tune”,in which case individuals who make the highest contributions to thecampaign and subsequent election of an individual would be highlylikely to dictate the manner in which the official carries out his orher duties without due regard to the concerns of other people (Ewing&Issacharoff, 2006).Indeed, allowing individuals to be only limited by their owncapabilities enables the destruction of the democratic process as itallows politics to be under the control of powerful or richindividuals. Of particular note is the fact that billionaires andmillionaires make up less than 5% of the voters but can representeven 90% funding for campaigns (Currinder,2009).The wealthy individuals who have the capacity to fund elections adshave political priorities that are way out of line with the interestsand views of common Americans. For instance, in spite of thepersistent majority public support for increased taxation onmillionaires and wealthy individuals, research shows that there hasbeen little sentiment for considerable tax increase on richindividuals or anyone else (Malbin,2006).If money is considered a legal or legitimate expression of anindividual’s political opinion, it would imply that the richest(5%) would have the highest proportion of influence over thedistribution of resources leaving out the poor majority (Currinder,2009).This, essentially, amounts to a destruction of the democratic processthat has taken so many years to build.
Further,research has showed that enormous donations depress the engagementand turnout of voters. Indeed, recent studies have shown that theincrease in the spending of Super PAC has had a negative impact onthe enthusiasm of voters. Indeed, scholars have noted that a largenumber of Americans now believe that there is a considerablereduction in the importance of their vote than in the past (Ewing&Issacharoff, 2006).The same studies have suggested that more individuals have a lowerlikelihood of participating in the electoral process as a result ofthis aspect. Indeed, these results became even more pronounced in thecase of low-income households, which means that a considerably highernumber of people are becoming apathetic to the electoral process(Ackerman&Ayres, 2002).This implies that their voices are muffled by the money or donationsthat are made by the wealthy.
Onthe same note, considering money as equivalent to free speech allowsfor the slanting of policymaking in favor of the 1%. Scholars havenoted that fundraising becomes part of the legislative process as aresult of the increased cost of elections. Researchers have estimatedthat members of the congress use between 30% and 70% of theirofficial time trying to raise more funds for their campaigns(Ackerman&Ayres, 2002).On the same note, staff members have reported that they wereconsiderably less likely to take a position in support of alegislation that a major company opposes, especially with theknowledge that the company or even its lobbyists could use millionsin coming up with attack ads against the official or Member of theCongress in the course of the subsequent election period (Smith,2001).This means that eventually, policymaking would always be done infavor of the individuals who can afford it or the wealthiestindividuals irrespective of the efficacy of the policies to thegeneral electorate.
However,some people feel that political campaign donations are a form of freespeech. Indeed, the judges in the ruling noted that limiting theamount of money that individuals or entities can contribute to thecampaigns and elections ads is an unjustifiable intrusion on thecapacity of citizens to exercise the most basic First Amendmentactivities (Samples,2006).On the same note, some scholars opine that people should have thecapacity to express their opinions and views in form of making asmuch donations as possible to the politician who represents the viewsand values with which they agree. In essence, donations are seen as aform of free speech as an individual would be directly supporting theideas (Smith,2001).However, this argument tends to ignore the unequal nature of humancapabilities and resources. Giving individuals the freeway todetermine the amount that they want to give means that some peoplewill have more access to the official than others simply based ontheir donations (Samples,2006).For instance, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson gave $36.3 million to SuperPACs and other groups in 2012. It would take over 321,000 averageAmerican families, in comparison, making donations of equivalentproportion to their wealth so as to match the donation made by theAdelsons. This means that the Adelsons are more likely to haveunhindered attention of the elected officials than the more than321,000 families, in which case they would have their money mufflethe opinions and views of thousands of families. The only reasonableand fair way of supporting the views of a politician would be throughthe vote. Since any person has a single vote, it goes without sayingthat the politician would have no option but to listen to everyperson, which would essentially promote democracy.
Ackerman,B. A., & Ayres, I. (2002). Votingwith dollars: A new paradigm for campaign finance.New Haven: Yale University Press.
Currinder,M. (2009). Moneyin the House: Campaign funds and congressional party politics.Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Ewing,K. D., & Issacharoff, S. (2006). Partyfunding and campaign financing in international perspective.Portland, Or: Hart Publishing.
La,R. R. J. (2008). Smallchange: Money, political parties, and campaign finance reform.Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Malbin,M. J. (2006). Theelection after reform: Money, politics, and the Bipartisan CampaignReform Act.Lanham [u.a.: Rowman & Littlefield.
Samples,J. C. (2006). Thefallacy of campaign finance reform.Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Smith,B. A. (2001). Unfreespeech: The folly of campaign finance reform.Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.