To the Editor
In the interesting debate about the First Amendment and the Citizens United decision, one point fails to emerge clearly – and it’s the point the Nation itself has been hammering at on the subject. The issue is one of the spending of money in elections, i.e. campaign finance, not one of what speech is or is not allowable. Both Floyd Abrams and Burt Neuborne seem to see the impact on fair elections as relevant; they argue over whether corporate money influenced the outcome. Abrams cite Democrats reviving $206.4 million and losing, while Republicans garnered only $171.7million and won. Neubirth points out the in 53 of 72 election districts in which corporations backed Republicans, Republicans won.
But that’s not the point. A little story: Joe Lieberman is considering whether to run for Senate again, and if so with which party or as an independent. How will he decide “If I decide to run, I’ve really got to start the work of raising money?” So money will decide what he does. The desperate and on-going search for money influences both parties as well as prospective challengers, and it moves them all to similar positions on basic issues of concern to money, particularly to big contributors. Whether it comes from General Electric or the Koch brothers, the role of money ought to be limited if we are to have fair democratic elections. Neuborne makes the point when he decries the impact of “the sense of obligation—or fear—generated by huge independent political expenditures.”
That’s the problem, not free speech, or whether corporations are people. Let’s focus on that.