Monday, November 24, 2008

Is Campaign Finance Reform Dead? Should It Be?

Getting elected means getting your message out and that means advertising. Advertising means money and that means donations. In the decision Buckley v. Valeo, the Court asserted that money was speech, political speech is protected by the First Amendment and therefore, so are campaign contributions.

But, the line for campaign finance reform goes, money is not speech, but the ability to drown out other voices. If you have enough, you keep those who have less from being heard. Money is not the speech itself, it is the access to a bigger megaphone and that works fundamentally against the reason we have free speech, that in a free marketplace of ideas the best idea tends to win. Campaign finance reform is needed to level the playing field and let a wider variety of voices be heard to serve democracy.

But, in the last election, Barack Obama raised a half a billion dollars online from small donors. Suddenly, the small fish have banded together giving them the monetary pull of the bigger fish. Does this eliminate the need for campaign finance reform? Was this last election singular or is there something systemic that has been challenged? Do the central premises of the argument still hold up?