From transparency laws to enemy lists

Contemporary politics requires raising lots of money.  But that is also a formula for corruption, with elected officials potentially giving pay-back to those who gave them money for their campaigns.  How can that be avoided?

One solution, found to be constitutionally dubious,  was to strictly limit the amount of money individuals can give to a political campaign.  Another, advocated by many conservatives, is to let people give what they want as long as “transparency” is maintained by making public the names of the donors.  That way if lawmakers pass bills that enrich certain donors, the bribery would be obvious.  So “transparency” has become part of most campaign finance laws.

But this has had an unintended consequence.  Donor lists are being used as enemy lists, allowing the government and private groups to go after people who have given money to certain individuals or causes, harassing and punishing donors for their politics and their beliefs. [Read more…]

Totalitarian discourse

Charles Krauthammer gives the name for handling disagreements by silencing and punishing those who hold opposing ideas:

The left is entering a new phase of ideological agitation — no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition.The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced. [Read more…]

LBJ is back in favor

How the left hated Lyndon Baines Johnson back when I was in college!  “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?”  A version of MacbethMacbird, I believe was the title–accused him of killing Kennedy among other vile deeds.   He was hated because he waged the Vietnam War.  And yet  LBJ was the most liberal president in the post-war era, having passed more social programs than just about anyone since FDR, including the Civil Rights Bill, the various measures that constituted the  War on Poverty, and the ambitious government initiatives designed to create the Great Society.

But now LBJ is back in fashion among Democrats and others on the left, nostalgic for the way he could pass social programs. [Read more…]

Social conservatives rising in France

There is talk of a “French tea party,” as citizens alarmed at abortion, gay marriage, and other social issues are mobilizing politically and taking to the streets.  Something similar is happening in other European countries.  The movement is one of  social conservatism, not necessarily other kinds of conservatism, with the protesters often being fine with big government and controlled economics.  But still. . . [Read more…]

GOP establishment wooing Jeb Bush

A number of Republican leaders and donors–motivated by pragmatism and looking for a candidate who is moderate enough to actually win the next presidential election–are trying to persuade Jeb Bush to run.  Of course, these are the same win-at-any-cost pragmatists who gave us Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Whatever the virtues of Jeb Bush, the Bush “brand” is surely a liability, and choosing candidates from a family dynasty is surely a monarchical instinct and unworthy of a free republic.  (The same holds true for Clintons and Kennedys.)  Or am I missing something? [Read more…]

You can now give to as many candidates as you want

The Supreme Court struck down the limits to the number of candidates a person is allowed to give money to and the total amount you are allowed to give.   Left standing is the limit a person can give to one candidate–$48,600–but the law had limited total giving to $123,200.  That meant that a donor wanting to give the maximum amount could only support nine candidates.

I know that critics of the ruling are claiming that this opens the door to political corruption and gives rich people the opportunity to buy candidates.  But are there any constitutional grounds for objecting to this ruling?  Aren’t limitations of political activity unconstitutional on the face of it? [Read more…]