Archive for January 27th, 2010

A Modest Proposal On Campaign Finance Reform

Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres have a suggestion on how to (mostly) get around the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision:

While Congress can’t issue a broad ban on all companies, it can target the very large class that does business with the federal government and ban those companies from “endorsing or opposing a candidate for public office.”

A 2008 Government Accountability Office study found that almost three-quarters of the largest 100 publicly traded firms are federal contractors. If Congress endorsed our proposal, these companies — and tens of thousands of others — would face a stark choice: They could endorse candidates or do business with the government, but they couldn’t do both. When push came to shove, it’s likely that very few would be willing to pay such a high price for their “free speech.”

The Roberts court is skeptical — to put it mildly — of campaign finance restrictions. But it is still highly unlikely that the justices would strike down a law targeting federal contractors. All nine recognize that Congress may restrict free speech when there is a significant risk of corruption. That risk is obvious when corporate speakers are simultaneously doing business with the government.


Our proposal requires only a modest extension of existing law. Federal contractors already are not allowed to “directly or indirectly . . . make any contribution of money or other things of value” to “any political party, committee, or candidate.” This provision arguably bars Big Pharma from launching a media campaign in favor of a candidate who supports its special deals, thereby “indirectly providing” the candidate something “of value.” But it doesn’t cover the case in which contractors threaten to spend millions to oppose senators and representatives who refuse their excessive demands. There is a need, then, for a new statutory initiative: The same anti-corruption rationale that may prohibit contractors from spending millions in favor of candidates requires a statutory prohibition on a negative advertising blitz.

IANAL (I am not a lawyer), but this sounds pretty reasonable to me.  Of course, constitutional or not, our corporate-owned Congress still has to pass it.

1 comment January 27th, 2010 at 11:26am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Media

Politico To Labor: Why Are You Hitting Yourself?


Yes, that’s right, it’s Labor’s fault that EFCA is dead:

Big Labor’s top legislative priority, a bill creating an easier way to organize workers, is essentially dead – and its own members were instrumental in killing it.

The victory of Republican Scott Brown’s in last week’s Massachusetts Senate special election that deprived Democrats of a filibuster-proof majority is not only bad news for health care. It also means that Republicans will be able to block the Employee Free Choice Act from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.

Asked if EFCA was dead for the year, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the bill’s sponsor, hesitated for several seconds, saying, “Well, it’s, it’s, it’s there. But it doesn’t look too good.” He added: “I’m not going to give up on it. I’ll never give up on it.”

For a year, labor leaders kept their bargain with Congressional Democrats and the White House: health care first, then EFCA. The election of Martha Coakley to fill the seat held for decades by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) was supposed to be the last step on a long, twisting road toward moving the legislation forward.

Whether their rank-and-file lost patience or simply didn’t realize the stakes, the decision of most union members in Massachusetts to back Brown rather than Coakley helped put the last nail in a legislative effort that was already on life support.

According to the AFL-CIO’s election night survey of Massachusetts voters, 49 percent of union members voted for Brown compared to 46 percent who backed Coakley. That’s even worse than the findings of a Republican election night survey, which found union voters split 49-48 for Brown and Coakley, respectively.

Of course, the principal reason why MA union voters turned on Obama and the Democrats was their abject failure to deliver on any of their promises.  Union leadership may have believed the White House when it strung them along and used the promise of EFCA to extort extract their support (or at least non-opposition) for the terrible Senate healthcare reform bill, but the rank-and-file was apparently paying closer attention to Obama’s track record on progressive initiatives.

Obama and the Democrats were never going to exert any more effort for EFCA than they did for the public option, and MA union voters knew it.

(Graphic by Married To The Sea)

January 27th, 2010 at 07:18am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Comics,Labor,Media,Obama,Politics

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