Shell-shocked liberals across the Internet and broadcast media have been trying to comfort themselves with a fairy tale that the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates of evil corporate money, which washed away Democrat hopes of recalling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The hapless people of Walker???s state were hypnotized by fluttering greenbacks, and victory was stolen from the righteous.
Commonly cited is an article published last weekend by the Center for Public Integrity, which asserts the record $63.5 million spent in Wisconsin was ???made possible thanks to the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision ??? which had the effect of invalidating Wisconsin???s century-old ban on independent expenditures by corporations and unions ??? and a state law that allows unlimited contributions to the incumbent in recall elections.???
Conn Carrroll at the Washington Examiner briskly shreds this little bedtime story, noting that the Center for Public Integrity demonstrated no link between the landmark Citizens United decision and the Wisconsin election. ???Yes, Barrett was outspent heavily,??? writes Carroll, referring to Walker???s recall opponent, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. ???But none of the money spent on Walker???s behalf would have been illegal before Citizens United, either.???
To summarize, out-of-state political spending is not addressed by Citizens United, and the bulk of Walker???s money came from individual donors and the Republican Governors Association. ???At no point in CPI???s entire article do they cite a single example of conservative spending that would have been illegal before Citizens United, but is legal now,??? Carroll concludes.
For that matter, as Ben Shapiro notes at Breitbart.com, the widely reported ???7-to-1 spending advantage??? Walker allegedly enjoyed over Barrett is a fairy tale, too:
Overall, over $63.5 million was spent on the recall effort by various parties. Walker spent about $30 million; Barrett spent about $4 million. Most of the money spent by Walker came from out-of-state sources ??? The Republican Governors Association spent about $4 million, almost all from out-of-state; the Kochs gave $1 million; the Chamber of Commerce gave $500,000. On the surface, then, it appears that Walker had a tremendous cash advantage.
Not so fast. As it turns out, labor unions spent an additional $21 million on the recall election. When it came to state senate recall elections back in September 2011, Democrats outspent Republicans $23.4 million to $20.5 million.
And even that tally doesn???t count the gigantic advantage of union organization, which they are not at all shy about using for political purposes. Public employee unions build their ground game upon a fertile garden of taxpayer dollars. If a reasonable dollar value for this advantage was added to the $25 million in cash spent by Barrett and the unions, it would be hard to argue that Walker retained any real monetary advantage.
This is all just the latest skirmish in the long war over political money, which always picks up a sour odor when the other side is spending it??? especially when they win. Campaign finance rules are so complicated that the ensure someone, somewhere, will have a bitter complaint about something, almost every time an election of great consequence is held.
Much of the row over campaign finance is an attempt to institutionalize judgments that are fair enough when made by individuals. Full disclosure of all campaign funding is essential. If a particular voter then decides he can???t vote for a candidate supported by a particular union, corporation, or individual, his judgment can certainly be debated, but in the end it must be respected.
Most controversies about ???unfair spending advantages??? boil down to the unilateral assertion that some big bucks are unquestionably noble, while others are irredeemably evil. Such a judgment becomes troubling when it is enforced, rather than argued. And it should be argued logically, not with the usual hocus pocus that transforms every disfavored group into a sinister ???special interest,??? while the good guys are praised for their active commitment to robust elections. Taken seriously, this amounts to the limitation of debate by controlling who is allowed to participate, and what they are allowed to say.
Which group of mind-readers are we supposed to obey, when they pass judgment on which billionaire is a civic-minded patriot, and which is a greedy mastermind looking to buy an election? A private-sector union is essentially a large corporation that sells labor to other corporations. Why should the union be seen as a paragon of virtue, while its customers are nothing but greedy villains? Why should a media corporation be granted unlimited political power, while those who manufacture goods must be muzzled? How can one candidate???s prodigious fund-raising prowess be a healthy sign of his popularity, while another???s merely reveals his puppet strings?
And why in the world should the free people of the United States accept the only logical principle that appears to connect all of the Left???s praise and scorn for political money, which is that a dollar spent to make the government larger is pure, while a dollar spent to resist its power is poison?