The Real Reason Hillary Clinton Wants To Overturn ‘Citizens United’
Hillary Clinton’s stumbling campaign for the White House is geared to take advantage of voter ignorance at every turn: ignorance about the government’s ability to promote prosperity, ignorance about the impact of minimum wage laws, ignorance about the damage done by her policies while serving as Secretary of State, and – the point of this piece – ignorance about the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Leftist politicians from Barack Obama down have created a mythology that Citizens United was a disastrous decision because it allows big, rich, right-wing corporations to buy our elections. Hillary Clinton declares that if elected president, she would make it a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees that they be willing to overrule it. Moreover, leaving no stone unturned, she favors a constitutional amendment that would allow the federal government to do what the Court said it could not do in Citizens United – control free speech in political campaigns.
Exactly what was Citizens United all about, anyway?
The case arose because a non-profit corporation produced and sought to air a documentary named Hillary: The Movie that was highly critical of Hillary Clinton while she was seeking the Democratic nomination. The Federal Election Commission blocked its release, on the grounds that the movie violated the rules regarding “electioneering communications” in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), so Citizens United sought an injunction against the FEC’s action.
Now, had some group produced and aired a film that fawned over the greatness of Hillary, there almost certainly would never have been any case. Because the movie criticized an important leftist politician, however, the FEC felt obliged to weigh in.
The district court refused to grant the requested injunction, holding that the statute’s regulations of “express advocacy” during elections was not unconstitutional. Citizens United then appealed to the Supreme Court, which held that the First Amendment does not allow the government to so regulate independent political messages.
Hillary doesn’t try to hide her personal connection to the case. Quite the opposite, her new campaign video says that she is so adamant about it because “she knows firsthand what it has done to our democracy.” There’s that myth again.
In fact, Citizens United didn’t do anything “to our democracy” except to allow the competition of candidates and ideas to escape complete federal control. That’s good. More competition is always beneficial, whether in the market for cars, the market for cameras, or the market for candidates.
We should hope that at this very minute, people – in unions, in corporations, in any kind of organization – are busily working on more advocacy movies: Hillary: The Movie II; The Donald: The Movie; Bernie: The Movie; Carly: The Movie, and so on. They should be free to make and show them without restrictions – such speech is at the very heart of the First Amendment.
To be sure, democracy has its flaws and one of them is that politicians and interest groups can try to stack the deck in their favor through laws and regulations. Despite our constitutional commitment to free speech and press, politicians have often tried to silence their critics.
President John Adams, for example, wanted to squelch criticism of his administration and in 1798 signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Ignoring the words of the First Amendment that prohibit Congress from passing any law that abridges free speech, that law made it a crime to “write, utter, or publish anything” that might “bring the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress, or the President into disrepute or excite against them the hatred of the good people of the United States.”
As Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus suggests, “Maybe we should just resuscitate the law and add the name ‘Hillary Clinton.’”
Naturally, she and other advocates of campaign finance reform laws claim that they only want to “clean up politics” by reducing the allegedly corrupting influence of money. But the notion that politicians would only do things that are in the public interest if it weren’t for the malign presence of money is another myth.
Even if campaigns were entirely funded by government (which is to say, taxpayers would be compelled to foot the bill for the promotion of candidates they might abhor), interest groups would still find ways of aiding those who’ll give them what they want. Labor unions, for example, can boost their favored candidates through brigades of “volunteer” manpower.
Furthermore, no law enforces itself and the campaign finance laws are easily evaded and/or violated.
Therefore, campaign finance laws give a big advantage to candidates who expect heavy non-monetary support and who are willing to turn a blind eye to the law in a “win first, deal with any legal consequences later” calculation.
That, I submit, explains why Hillary wants so badly to overturn Citizens United.
Interest groups try so desperately to make voters think well or ill of candidates mainly because winners can give them subsidies and favorable regulations. Citizens United wouldn’t have felt the need to produce Hillary: The Movie if it weren’t for all the goodies its backers knew Mrs. Clinton would dish out if she became POTUS.
There is only one way to “clean up politics” — scrub away the means by which politicians can hand out favors to friends and punish their enemies.
Originally posted on Forbes.com.