One of the more persistent myths of government campaign financing programs is that their purpose is to enhance First Amendment values. Justice Kagan made that claim on Monday when she said during the oral argument in the IJ/Goldwater challenge to
But government funding in any area never measures up to its proponents rosy predictions. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were supposed to provide retirement funds and medical care for a small segment of the population. All three are now gigantic bankrupt welfare programs that provide fewer and fewer benefits at a higher and higher cost. Government meddling in the housing industry certainly provided more homes, but, as the ensuing housing crash and depressed market have shown, it turned out they were homes that no one wanted. The list of government failures of this type is almost endless.
Why would we expect government campaign funding to be any different?
In fact, the purpose of state funding isn’t to increase speech at all, but to reduce it by limiting campaign spending. Proponents of
GIVE AVERAGE CITIZENS MORE PRESENTATION! REDUCE AND LIMIT CAMPAIGN SPENDING! STOP THE ENDLESS MONEY CHASE! STOP SPECIAL INTEREST MONEY! LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD!
The structure of the law leaves no doubt about its purpose. In exchange for state money to run their elections, candidates may not accept private funds and must limit their spending to the amount of the grants the state provides. Less spending necessarily means less speech during the election. How exactly does that serve First Amendment “values”?
And not just anyone can receive state funds. If they could, every crackpot with an axe to grind would run for office on the government’s dime. So the law requires candidates to qualify by raising a sufficient number of $5 contributions—4410 for governor, 2755 for attorney general and so on. Most “average citizens” are not going to convince thousands of people to give them $5 to run for public office. In fact, the type of person who is likely to do that is the same type who would run without public financing. That has often been the case in
Under state-funded campaigns, the main difference from what we have now is that candidates have less reason to meet with supporters, who previously funded their campaigns, and will definitely have to limit their spending and thus the speech their campaigns produce.
As my colleague
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