GOLDWATER: Political fundraising should come from individuals and individuals alone.
Ron Fein is legal director for Free Speech for People.
Barry Goldwater_s favorite response to an idea that earned his disdain was _Hell,no._ And that_s exactly how the late senator from Arizona would likely have responded toPost columnist George F. Willafter he attacked a common-sense constitutional amendment that would authorize limits on the influence of money in politics.
Last month, Will quoted Goldwater in the opening lines of a column arguing that theCitizens Uniteddecision protects Americans_ First Amendment rights. According to Will,Citizens Unitedsays that _Americans do not forfeit their speech rights when they band together to express themselves on political issues through corporations, which they generally do through nonprofit advocacy corporations,_ like the Sierra Club or NARAL Pro-Choice. However, the Supreme Court had already held in its 1986Massachusetts Citizens for Lifedecisionthat true nonprofit advocacy corporations, as defined by certain reasonable parameters, can spend money in elections _ and it distinguished them from business corporations for that reason.
Citizens United,by contrast, opened the floodgates to political spending by business corporations _ the kind that Goldwater didn_t want interfering in our democracy. As he explained in his 1960 bestseller _The Conscience of a Conservative,_ political fundraising should come from _individuals and individuals alone._ He put it simply: _I see no reason for labor unions _ or corporations _ to participate in politics._ The post-Citizens Unitedflood of corporate and union dollars into our politics would have infuriated the senator.
Fifty years ago, Goldwater made a historic run for president. He didn_t win, but his campaign launched the modern conservative movement. Goldwater_s experience taught him the dangerous influence of money in politics.As he explained, _the role of money is way out of line. It_s strangling us. The influence of money distorts everything. Government of and by the people, for example, is waning._He advocatedlimits on overall spending in election campaigns _ both by the candidates themselves and by _independent_ spenders _ and suggested trying to persuade the Supreme Court to reverse its 1976 decision holding that campaign spending limits violate the First Amendment.
Today, Will trumpets that _all limits will be set by incumbent legislators.__»_¿.__»_¿.[to] serve incumbents_ interests._ As an Arizonan, Goldwater knew the power of direct democracy _ the ballot propositions and initiatives that voters can vote up or down, without any _incumbent legislators_ in the way. But in Montana, some who apparently agree with Willare suingthe state to overturn campaign finance laws that were passed by the voters.
The stakes could hardly be higher. AsGoldwater prophesied, _our nation is facing a crisis of liberty if we do not control campaign expenditures. Unlimited campaign spending eats at the heart of the democratic process._ It_s time for us to look this problem in the eye and say, in the immortal words of the late senator from Arizona, _Hell, no!_