Hillary Clinton, one of the most corrupt politicians in U.S. history, and certainly the most corrupt to become the presumptive nominee of a major party, has promised to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and thus gut the first amendment. This she promises to do within her first 30 days in office, should she win the Presidency. She also announced that she intends to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending. And she will promote SEC rulemaking that would require publicly traded companies to disclose all political spending to their shareholders.
The professed reason for all this is to “…protect against influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections”. Mind you this is coming from a woman who, along with her husband, garnered some $229 million giving speeches to organizations between 2001 and 2014 that had business before the U.S. government. That loot, which is what it is, included foreign entities that had business and other dealings with the U.S. government, including the time that Clinton served as a U.S. Senator and later as Secretary of State.
The conduit for much of the cash was the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton family slush fund that that finances the Clinton’s travel and living expenses. By using the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees as the preferred instruments for collecting cash, the Clintons managed to side step laws that prohibit foreign entities from making campaign donations and creating super-PACS.
Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard reports that Bill Clinton’s speaking fees exploded when Hillary became Secretary of State. For example, according to Barnes,
“[Bill Clinton] gave two speeches in Nigeria at $700,000 apiece. He was paid $750,000 by Ericsson, the Swedish telecom company, for a speech in Hong Kong. He gave 13 speeches for more than $500,000 a pop from the time he stepped down as president in 2001 to the day his wife left as secretary of state in 2013. Eleven of them occurred while she was in office, Schweizer found. PolitiFact confirmed his numbers and speech dates.”
And then there was Laureate International Universities, parent company of a diploma mill that received $55 million in State Department grants. Bill Clinton served as honorary chancellor of that operation for 5 years and got paid $16.5 million for doing so. George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley took a look at the operation and raised serious questions about it on his blog.
So the Clinton’s are corrupt as the day is long. But as they like to say: “That’s old news”. More problematic is Hillary Clinton’s renewed frontal assault on the First Amendment. The point of her “common sense rules” and disclosure requirements for political speech is hardly to reduce corruption. After all, the Clintons are as corrupt as they come, and the proposed rules would not materially affect their behavior one bit.
The point of the Clinton proposal is to make it easy for left-wing groups to use disclosure requirements to intimidate donors. Once it is revealed that a corporation or an individual has donated to a cause or point of view that is out of favor, the attack begins. Remember the case of Brendan Eich, founder of Mozilla? When it was revealed that he personally donated all of $1,000 in favor of Prop 8 that would ban same sex marriage, he was hounded out of his job as CEO. Lefties remain unapologetic and continue to defend his ouster. Incidentally, Eich was on the majority side. Prop 8 passed 52% to 48%.
Then there were the cases of the Tea Party Organizations that had the IRS turned loose on them by the Obama Administration, as recounted by Kimberly Strassel. Government agencies in those cases demanded Tea Party donor lists. For the same purpose—intimidation—lefty activists want access to the political spending of corporations. Hillary is volunteering to help them out by seeking SEC rules that would require disclosure. So activists can go out and buy a small amount of stock and, pretending to be real investors, demand disclosure as a prelude to a public attack.
Note that the proposed SEC rule and other disclosure requirements would leave labor unions unaffected.
Now, before turning to the merits of the case, let’s dispense with two of the oft-repeated myths about the Citizens United decision that have its opponents so riled up.
Myth # 1: Citizens United made corporations persons under law. Not so. That determination was made in the 19th century, beginning with Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1818). The Court affirmed that corporations were entitled to the 14th amendment’s equal protection provision in Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co v. Pennsylvania in 1888.
Myth # 2: Citizens United allows corporations and wealthy individuals to contribute “unlimited money” for their election campaigns, thereby controlling those politicians. Not even close. Donations to politicians are still tightly regulated and limited. Citizens United removed restrictions on issue advocacy. Citizens can spend all the money they want advocating for a cause provided that they do not coordinate their advocacy with a campaign.
It is clear, or ought to be, that the Supreme Court correctly decided Citizens United. U.S. citizens do not lose their speech rights if they assert those rights and advocate either individually or through an organization like the Sierra Club or the National Rifle Association.
The idea that regulating money in politics will eliminate or significantly reduce corruption is simply laughable on its face. Bill and Hillary Clinton, two of the most corrupt politicians in the history of the United States, are ardent campaign finance reformers. That ought to tell us something right off the bat.
The corruption of the Clinton’s aside, why would anyone over 21 actually believe it’s a good idea to have some bureaucrat decide what a citizen may or may not advocate for? Not to mention when and how. Regulations on money in politics do not regulate money. They regulate people. And the regulations are designed to stifle the free expression of ideas that politicians find most dangerous to their re-election campaigns. If you want to stifle progress, suppressing free speech is a good way to start.
Progressives and good-government types regularly argue that too much money is spent on election campaigns. Well, with the constant din about how awful election spending is many people would be surprised to know that in 2014 U.S. citizens spent twice as much on Halloween candy as they did on the midterm elections. All told about $3.7 billion was spent on the midterms while $7.4 billion got shelled out for Halloween candy. That is fairly trivial when compared to $11 billion for movies, $11.7 billion for dry cleaning, $73.9 billion for soda and $78 billion for lottery tickets.
So let’s understand what is going on here. Hillary Clinton is perfectly willing to trample on the most fundamental right in the American political system—the right to free speech—in order to secure a political advantage. All the while she claims that she wants to get “dark money” out of politics. But even were she to succeed in neutering the First Amendment, it would make no difference with respect to political corruption. Hillary Clinton would still be as corrupt as ever, but the right to effectively illuminate and protest that fact would be gone.