Next Thursday, join our executive director Alan Durning to discuss how unfettered money has changed the political landscape and what Oregonians can do to make sure their voices are heard.
Deb Field, executive board member of Main Street Alliance, will be joining Alan. There will be a live jazz performance by the Mel Brown B3 Organ Group after the event (note that even though the “Innovative Solutions to Money in Politics” event is free, there is a $6 cover charge for the concert).
- When: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 6:30-8:00 PM
- Where: Jimmy Mak’s, 221 NW 10th Ave, Portland (map)
- Tickets: The event is free and open to the public. Please reserve your seat.
- Host: City Club of Portland
For more information about the event, click here.
Check out the ongoing Sightline series, What Democracy Looks Like, which aims to map a path to political reform.
If I may, I would like to offer my own suggestion, and would welcome any comments or legal analysis on whether it might make sense or not.
The suggestion is based on the Roberts Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, where Justice Roberts, who clearly favors unlimited corporate contributions to destroy democracy [o.k., my analysis, for what it is worth], was the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act. And part of his rationale was that government has the authority to require a health insurance mandate, but with an option for individuals to pay a tax to “opt-out” of the mandate.
The same approach could apply in a legal adjustment to Citizens United. That is, corporations could still spend as much money as they wanted, but they would be taxed at 100% (the same amount as the full contribution), with some nominal lower exclusion, say $250, to allow human citizens to make contributions without a tax. IMHO, this would reflect the Sightline principle of “tax bads, not goods,” i.e., tax things where society would benefit from less of the “bad” (pollution, corporate control of politics, other “sinful” items).
In addition, this is something that could be done on a state or local level, even though corporate money would still likely be against it, without the need of a Constitutional amendment. Moreover, decisions at more local levels could represent a harbinger for change, as well as a template for changes at broader government levels.
It would also reflect the opinion of former Justice Brandeis, which to paraphrase, was something like, “We can have democracy or a financially privileged class, but not both.”
In making this comment, I acknowledge that I have not been trained in law, and would welcome a discussion on whether this makes sense.
I like the way you think, JA. I’m not a lawyer, and certainly not a constitutional law scholar, but my guess is that taxing campaign money won’t pass muster. The problem, as I understand it, is that the Roberts Court regards campaign money as political speech and political speech as sacrosanct. Nothing can touch it. If you could convince the court that crying fire in a crowded theater was political speech, the court would probably protect the fire crier.
Thanks for your feedback. And of course, crying fire in a crowded theater used to be the standard for speech that could be prohibited. Then the Roberts court overturned more than 100 years of campaign finance law, by some accounts, and allowed unlimited corporate financing, which John McCain had characterized as legalized political corruption, back when he was willing to challenge it.
The appointment of John Roberts and Justices of similar ilk furthers the argument that folks should vote as if their futures and the nation’s future depends on it, because Supreme Court decisions may stand for decades.
I see by your earlier posts that you are also a fan of Brandeis, and the link that you provided elsewhere gives the full quote that I paraphrased above. That is,
“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
Link to that one, along with other quotes that seem very relevant today, is: http://www.brandeis.edu/legacyfund/bio.html
Thanks again. I look forward to your future posts in the What Democracy Looks Like theme.