Sunday, May 4, 2014

Donor Lists, and Comparing Apples To Pineapples

American Mercenary and I have been going back and forth in comments to two posts on his blog over the virtues and evils of campaign donor lists. Blog comments on Blogger are text limited, so there really wasn't time to go into all the details I would have liked the second time around. So I left this part of the back and forth for here, where there is more space.

To follow this, you'll need to see the prologues, or it will be coming out of nowhere to you.
If you want to see this from the start, go here and here. Then come back.
In the second half of the second post on the topic, AM writes:

I'd like to say at this point, "I rest my case." but I'm not done yet.

So if campaign finance laws aren't hurting the progressives, who are they hurting?

Let us take a step away from the 1st Amendment, which includes both the right to free speech and the right to assemble, and move to the 2nd Amendment.

If an informed public is justification enough to have a donors list, then isn't having an informed public justification enough to have a gun owners list? Think about it, if we just knew where all the guns were, clearly then we could track down criminals in mere fractions of the time it takes now!

Except that only punishes the law abiding, who fill the forms out, who will then be punished when someone who breaks the law with a gun draws the ire of law enforcement.

If gun registration does nothing to prevent crime, it is not a stretch of logic to say that donor registration does nothing to prevent corruption.

I am by very nature both anti crime and anti corruption. Having lists made of law abiding people, by their very nature of being law abiding, does NOTHING to combat crime or corruption.

History has shown that gun registration is a bad thing. So far with Eich and the IRS scandal we are starting to see a historical pattern where donor registration is turning out to be a bad thing.

How many more years of conservatives being hounded from their position in business, how many more years will people tolerate bureaucratic discrimination? 

An informed public is an empowered public. But only if the information is impartial and complete. And when only the law abiding play by the rules, the information will never be impartial or complete.

Why do you think that Democrats rail against Voter Identification Laws? Because it makes voter fraud harder. It is not in the best interest of the law breakers to make voter fraud harder. But Democrats will go on and on about "the fundamental freedom to vote being so sanctified that it must not be perverted by a card check."

Like I said, laws only affect the law abiding. War is politics by other means, and it would be a poor warrior who went to war on the enemies terms, and let the enemy change the rules of engagement to the enemies advantage. Yet somehow liberty minded individuals are supposed to let progressive communists dictate campaign financing?
1) First apples to pineapples comparison: There is no Constitutional right for everyone to run for office. Unlike there is for keeping and bearing arms.

2) You, as a private citizen have a right to privacy that covers your papers etc.
You, as someone running for public office, enjoy no such presumption of privacy.
Therefore trying to compare an informed public when selecting those who wield the levers of power, to an informed public sticking their noses into your house or gun safe are two HUGELY different things.There are only 545 people in the federal government who directly participate in a democracy. 536 of them are elected. 4 of them by each one of us, the voters. Asking who's bankrolling their campaign, as well as local campaigns, and ballot initiatives, doesn't hinder anyone's speech, but it sheds a tolerable amount of light on what used to take place in the stereotypical smoke-filled back rooms. 

3) "Knowing where all the guns are" is practically and epistemologically impossible thing, and a rather poorly expressed strawman to stand in for the gun controller's rationale (to the extent that braindead liberals can be said to think rationally). Trying to drag guns into this argument is a specious stretch requiring the flexibility of Elastigirl from Incredibles. The only point of similarity is that the First Amendment is right in front of the Second.

4) Donor registration isn't to "prevent corruption". No law "prevents" anything. Trying to pose the argument of anything thusly is intellectually dishonest, and opens the door to saying with the same tongue-in-cheek "logic" that since laws against murder don't prevent murder, we should eliminate those laws too.
Donor lists provide readily available evidence of corruption, while leaving the voters' common sense (or lack of it) to use that information to vote out the crooks or liars. Or not.
So the only "flaw" in making donor lists is that it leaves individuals free to take the action they think is appropriate, at their whim, rather than coercing that action. Hardly a flaw.

5) Brendan Eich is presented as the sole example of donor registration lists gone bad.
The IRS scandal has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with listing donors. (It has to do with the Sixteenth Amendment being a monumentally stupid-assed idea, pretty much since the get-go, and unto the end of time.)
To date, we've had about twenty federal elections since post-Watergate campaign donation rules were enacted (1974ff.), with 468.5 federal offices (give or take) up for election each time, plus state offices in the tens of thousands, times multiple candidates, times bazillions of listed donors, and thousands and thousands of state ballot initiatives, and yet Eich is essentially the sole exemplar of why reporting campaign donors is horrible.  This would be akin to getting rid of all ships because one rowboat sunk.
It also ignores the fact that Eich was forced out of a post on a corporate board because his views were offensive to the board he was picked to head, and potentially damaging to the business of that company. That's why he was deemed incompatible with the company's business, and shown the door - with an undoubted gold-plated severance package. So I'm not shedding tears for the man, or what happened. He is not the rallying cry to stop listing who gives what to whom.
This isn't a case of bureaucratic discrimination. It was just business.

6) The IRS was used as a weapon to discriminate against conservative groups.
That has crap-all to do with putting names on a donor list. How would you go about concealing the NRA's political bent from the IRS? Or any other group?
In the past, both Democrat and Republican administrations have used the IRS as a weapon, long before the existence of 1974 campaign donor laws. The problem is the IRS. Not campaign donor lists that didn't exist prior to the post-Watergate reforms enacted by Congress to prevent multi-million dollar dirty tricks squads, slush funds, and hush money all paid from that morass of unaccountable untraceable cash contributions.

7) Campaign financing isn't "dictated by progressive liberals". The Congress, both houses, was held by the GOP entirely, and with the White House too, for six years. They changed none of it. In fact, they made it worse.
Because campaign finance rules are dictated by incumbents, to make their offices a bastion against upstart challengers. And exactly as noted, the unconstitutional (though upheld by SCOTUS, exactly like Dred Scot, Kelo, or upholding Obamacare) McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reforms have made it about 98% unlikely that a challenger will unseat an incumbent, ever, any time.

Blindfolding voters about who gives to what campaign, whether for candidates or ballot propositions, won't accomplish that, or any other good thing.

Voting out McCain-Feingold, a completely separate issue, will.

Repealing the Sixteenth Amendment would unleash political and economic freedom like nobody would imagine, and hobble Leviathan to actually seeing to its business along Constitutional mandates.

Which is why a jihad against publishing the donors to campaigns is misguided, ineffective, and malicious.

By the way, under current federal rules, any contributions by anyone under $50 may be in cash and anonymous, which accounts for probably 90% of all political contributions going back to forever. So the law really only effects people that want to dump money into political campaigns. And frankly, as long as the identity and amounts were reported, I couldn't care less, generically, about who does that. As long as I can look up who's backing something or someone, the amount they give, IMHO, is constitutionally protected political free speech, and should be entirely unhindered. The farcical and intellectually vacuous opinions of some of SCOTUS notwithstanding.


AM said...

I think that this argument is going to start incorporating a lot more than just campaign finance laws and government abuse. What I see is a link between those laws and government abuse, and you dismiss that link because you approve of the law.

How many Brendan Eichs would it take for you to change your mind? That isn't a rhetorical question, I would like an actual numerical answer.

Aesop said...

I am comfortable with zero government abuse of any law.

Of which Eich's case is a non-example, so we remain under my threshold. He was forced out of his position by a private business, acting in their own perceived best interests.

As explained cogently by that left-wing bastion of liberalism (Not!) Forbes magazine, here:

So specifically, 10,000 Eichs would occasion nothing more from me than noting that businesses are free to act within the law according to their own best interests, just like you and I are and do.

OTOH, virtually everything the IRS does is abusive, mostly by reflex, so I'd be perfectly happy to see McCain-Fiengold, let alone the entire Sixteenth Amendment, completely repealed.

Champion an assault upon either of those two legal abominations, and I'll hold your coat while you throw stones. I'll even root around for some rally sharp ones for you to hurl.

(Neither of which, yet again, have anything per se to do with campaign donor lists first required under the 1974 campaign finance law changes post-Watergate, after Nixon was wrangling in $100,000 anonymous cash contributions, etc., and using them for the entire dirty tricks detail and the Watergate burglars, and their subsequent cover-up, legal defense, and obstruction of justice campaigns.)

Requiring people who donate more than $50 in cash to a campaign to have the transaction recorded by name, and to only contribute more than $100 by financial instrument like a check or money order impinges no one's rights who has any.

At the end of the day, everybody still only gets one vote, but nobody gets to donate $25M in anonymous cash to Senator Glockenspiel's campaign anymore, nor to the People For A Flat Earth PAC. And yet somehow, despite that change, the republic has shuffled along for the last 40 years with no documented government abuse based on the laws in question.

To put it in a metaphor which I hope will obtain some traction, just because a vehicle is painted with OD paint, it doesn't make it an enemy tank.

AM said...

All right, what are your thoughts about this:

I agree with you that an informed public is an empowered public, but I believe that the role of exposing corruption lies with the media and not with the government. Unfortunately getting the media to go after liberal corruption is a pipe dream.

But I disagree that the current donor lists and campaign finance laws are empowering the public, it seems that they are empowering only the side that wants to abuse them to suppress conservative political speech.

I don't trust the government with any more power than is absolutely necessary.

Aesop said...

They are hand in glove.

Will, being one of that last actual journalists worthy of the name left in America, is doing his job. I have no doubt the house organs of the Wisconsin Democrat Party are mum on the topic.

The exact reason the government compiles the lists is so that media, doing exactly that job, will uncover and trumpet the obvious corruption.

That was precisely the reason the laws were passed after Watergate, to eliminate the secrecy surrounding political contributions.

The issue, then, is a media that has become not only not adversarial, but the actual lapdog of the current administration, and the DNC in general.

Once again, your beef is with schools of journalism and editorial boards at 1000 newspapers and other media outlets, not the campaign finance reporting requirements.
Their reward has been to see their readership fall to numbers unseen since the dawn of literacy. Capitalism works.
The problem is no one is getting into the fray from the other side except Fox News. The number of conservative papers, for the last 30 years, stands at 1 and 1/2, nationwide. (That'd be the Washington Times, and the OIp-Ed page, and only the OpEd page, of the WSJ.
When the ratio is 500:500 instead of 998.5:1.5, let me know how it's working.

Governments misuse firearms too, but we don't call for banning them, right? If we're going to get rid of everything that governments find a way to abuse, there'll be no government at all.
Which is anarchy.

I'm for limited government, and accountable government, but not for anarchy.

My friends, Solitary, Nasty, Poor, Brutish, and Short, all agree.