Friday, March 25, 2005

Victory For Free Political Speech

The LA Times reports on a court victory for the governor, that may have broader implications. Link.
California politicians can raise unlimited amounts of money to promote ballot initiatives, a judge said Wednesday, handing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a significant victory as he promotes his political agenda this year.

In a preliminary ruling, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang said forcing Schwarzenegger to abide by fundraising limits for initiatives would unfairly trample on his right to free speech and would not subdue "the demons" of political corruption. (...)

Last month Schwarzenegger, Citizens to Save California and other groups promoting initiatives sued the Fair Political Practices Commission, the agency that enforces state campaign laws. They asked Chang to overturn a regulation prohibiting politicians from "controlling" initiative groups that raise unlimited amounts of money from donors. (...)

Chang's ruling is especially important to the Republican governor, because he has partly staked his political future on overhauling government at the ballot box rather than through the Democratic-controlled Legislature. The governor is expected to support at least four propositions in a possible special election this November, a campaign Schwarzenegger estimated would cost at least $50 million.

The preliminary ruling means Schwarzenegger can actively control Citizens to Save California and other groups promoting ballot initiatives, without having to abide by the contribution limits that apply to his reelection fund. He can accept no more than $22,300 per donor in that account.

It is only a preliminary finding, but it is about time that some judge found that any form of political speech overrides "campaign finance reform." If only five of nine supreme black robes felt the same. The Internet allows instant disclosure of large contributions. That is the only campaign finance reform that the nation or any state needs. As long as the voters know before the vote who is financing a candidate, no amount of campaign contributions will corrupt an election. We do not need laws that limit contributions in violation of the First Amendment. What we need are stricter laws on disclosure, which now often occurs after an election has been held.


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