Thursday, January 26, 2012

WSJ editorial comment

I posted on this Wall Street Journal online webpage the below comment concerning a January 22, 2012 editorial entitled "The War on Political Free Speech," by Bradley Smith:

[text of posted comment]

How about the below as a campaign financing system?

Only human beings can make campaign contributions to candidates. There would be no dollar amount limits on such campaign contributions. There would no "bundling" allowed, and all contributions would be required to be made on the donor's credit card or by check mailed to the candidate or by cash given against a written receipt. Subject to possible provisions for allowing anonymous contributions to candidates (discussed below), names and addresses of donors, and amounts of contributions would be posted promptly on the internet. It would be a felony for a human being to receive compensation or payment from a corporation pursuant to an understanding that the employee or other natural person would make a campaign contribution to a candidate.

There needs to be debate about whether a human being should be able to make campaign contributions on an anonymous basis. There can be legitimate concern about retaliation by other members of society who disagree with what the donor's objectives are in making his or her contribution, and there can even be concern about retaliation by lawmakers and governmental regulators against donors by reason of their campaign contribution. To address this concern, there could be a governmental Campaign Contribution Remittance Agency, which would receive campaign contributions from human beings who would be identified in the confidential records of the agency and would pass along the contribution to the identified candidate accompanied by such statement of purpose of the contribution as the human being wished to make. The amount of the contribution, the candidate it is for, and the statement in question would be posted on the internet.

No dollar amount limit on campaign contributions by human beings does mean that there will not be equal free speech. Human beings with more money can make larger campaign contributions and it can be expected that candidates will pay more attention to what those human beings are saying than to other human beings making small contributions.

Congress regulates the campaign and electioneering speech of corporations and other entities and has a "Truth in Political Speech" law that says corporations and other entities, in their speech, shall not say anything that is false or misleading or fail to state a material fact that a voter or a lawmaker or other target of the speech would consider relevant in making a voting or other decision based on or taking account of the statements that the corporation makes in its electioneering speech. This is a well known standard that is used in the securities laws that in the selling of stocks, bonds and other securities in order for investors not to be misled or deceived in making their decisions to buy the investments in question. Much effort goes into making sure that information in offering documents is accurate and truthful.

In the securities law, there are "forward looking statements" that are based on management’s expectations, estimates, projections, and assumptions, and that the securities law requires to be made in ways that keep in front of the investor the uncertainties that attend expectations or projections about future events. As a result, such statements are accompanied by caveats saying that actual future results and trends may differ materially from what is forecast. This could have analogous application in electioneering speech of corporations and other entities.

Candidates and other human beings would not be subject to this truthfulness standard concerning their political speech. There could, however, result in significant improvement of the political speech of candidates and other human beings if corporations and other entities were making electioneering speech that was subject to the truthfulness standard. Candidates could then questioned about their statements by reference to the electioneering speech that is subject to the truthfulness standard, i.e, "You candidate X say doing this (e.g., a $100 billion stimulus program will reduce unemployment by 1% point). What support for your statement can you point to in the electioneering speech of a corporation or other entity that is subject to the truthfulness standard that lines up with what you say. If you can't, why should we voters believe what you say or even think that you yourself believe it?"

Subject to the above truthfulness standard, corporations and other non-human being entities could expend funds to advertise their positions on laws and other governmental mattes that affect their economic interests and to urge employees, customers and others (who are human beings) to make campaign contributions to specified candidates. All such advertising and communications shall identify the corporation, etc., expending the funds, and there shall be filing of reports and posting on internet about such expenditure of funds and activities.

No comments:

Post a Comment