from an expert in the field:
fred Wertheimer is president of Democracy 21 (
21.org), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes government integrity, transparency and accountability.
OctOBER dEBatE RESULtS:
Should the government raise
the retirement age?
in JAnUAry 2010, the Supreme Court changed the face of our democracy when it struck down the long-standing ban on corporations making
campaign expenditures in federal elections.
The American people have had little trouble understanding the
corrupting consequences of this destructive decision. More than 75
percent of voters, including 70 percent of republicans and 73 percent of
independents, according to a recent SurveyUSA poll, view such corporate election spending as
an attempt to bribe politicians rather than as free speech that should not be limited.
our electoral system was based on the core principle that individuals choose our elected
representatives and individuals should fund our elections. With this decision, however, the
Supreme Court equated corporations with citizens and freed them up to use their immense,
aggregate corporate wealth to flood federal elections and buy government influence.
however, the damage caused can at least be mitigated by ensuring that the American people
know who is behind the money being spent to influence their votes.
The DiSCLoSe Act, which was passed by the U.S. house of representatives in June, would
address the problem of secret money influencing our national elections by requiring the disclosure of such campaign funds. But the legislation fell one vote short of reaching the Senate floor
in July, when no republican senator voted to allow the legislation to be considered. The bill is
expected to come up for another vote before Congress adjourns this year.
The DiSCLoSe Act also has two other important provisions. one would prevent foreign
interests, including foreign countries and corporations, from spending money to influence
federal elections through American corporations they control.
A second provision prohibits large federal contractors from making expenditures to
influence federal elections and government decisions. This would extend the existing ban on
government contractors making contributions to cover campaign expenditures as well.
While it is too late to shed light on the secret funding taking place in the 2010 congressional
races, the DiSCLoSe Act should be enacted to restore the right of voters to know who is behind
the money. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by October 14, 2010.
SEptEMBER dEBatE RESULtS:
from an expert in the field:
Should students still be
taught cursive writing?
YES: 89% NO: 11%
Percentage reflects votes received by
September 30, 2010. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
John Samples directs the Cato Institute’s (
www.cato.org) Center for
Representative Government, which studies campaign finance regulation.
The U.S. ConSTi TUTion states that Congress shall “make no law …
abridging the freedom of speech” for a reason. Members of Congress are
tempted to silence those who criticize their performance. They are the last
people who should have the power to decide which speech should be heard
and which banned. The First Amendment makes sure voters can hear the
case against the political status quo.
Until recently, Congress prohibited electoral speech by disfavored
speakers: businesses, labor unions and many advocacy groups. earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme
Court properly concluded that this speech ban violated the First Amendment. Some in Congress
responded with the DiSCLoSe Act.
The bill compels extensive disclosure of the sponsors of political advertising. Such disclosure encourages voters to judge a candidate more on his or her sponsors than on the candidate’s
platform and personal qualifications. Disclosure discourages free speech by putting sponsoring
individuals, businesses and other organizations at risk of being picketed, boycotted and otherwise harassed because of their political patronage. Clearly, one cannot truly respect free speech
while supporting controls on its funding.
Current laws prohibit campaign spending by foreign nationals. The DiSCLoSe Act extends
that prohibition to any business with minimal participation by foreigners. Congress is appealing
to anti-foreign bias, but companies represent shareholders, not foreign nations. The ban on
foreigners is not apt.
DiSCLoSe also prohibits speech by government contractors. Proponents of the act say
businesses will obtain government contracts by funding favorable campaign advertising for
candidates who have the power to award such largesse. This corrupt exchange requires a business to coordinate an ad with a candidate’s campaign. Such deal-making is already illegal, and
we have little evidence the laws are not being enforced. DiSCLoSe supporters also argue that
members of Congress will require businesses to fund campaign ads if those businesses want to
obtain contracts. This is extortion, and here again the law already prohibits this abuse of power.
Critical thinking by voters, not more restrictions by government, is the solution to what
ails our democracy. C
NOVEMBER 2010 The Costco Connection 21
Opinions expressed are those of the individuals
or organizations represented and are presented
to foster discussion. Costco and The Costco
Connection take no position on any Debate topic.