This has been a big week for the First Amendment.
In Arizona on Wednesday, Judge Roselyn Silver ruled that candidates who raise or use their own money in state elections will not be “gifting” taxpayer money to “clean election” candidates beyond the initial allotment given. In Arizona election parlance, it means no more matching funds. If you are a clean elections candidate, you may hope someone decides to run traditional and raise and spend a lot of money, because under the original law, any money raised by a traditional candidate beyond the threshold amount is matched with taxpayer money.
If the 9th Circuit decides not to take up the appeal from the Clean Elections Commission, it will be bad news for the likes of Governor Brewer, Dean Martin and Terry Goddard because Buzz Mills is poised to spend millions of dollars that would not be matched. The Governor’s race just got a lot more interesting.
In a huge decision on Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the prohibition of unions and corporations from using money to directly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate. This is a total game-changer for federal politics. Because candidates and parties will still have the same restrictions on the type of money and the amount they can take, there will likely be some U.S. Senate races and U.S. House races in 2010 that are decided by outside interests.
Think of it this way. A union decides they want to target a Republican who voted against card check. That union could literally spend millions of dollars communicating directly to voters to throw the incumbent out.
Some will claim that this makes politics more dirty. I don’t. Politics has always been pretty messy. It’s the way human nature works. If a corporation decides that a particular candidate is dangerous to their industry, they can now campaign directly against them.
Seriously, this will change campaigns in a big, big way.
Let me give you an example. Remember when State Senator Jim Waring tried to pass a bill to do away with fees for breaking contracts with cell phone carriers? Ostensibly, if the likes of Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile thought he might pose a threat to them if he were elected to Congress, they could literally spend millions of dollars running ads and sending mail advocating his defeat.
Huh. Wonder if that will happen…
UPDATE: Lest someone think that I am singling out Waring, another example would be if the health insurance industry decided to run ads against Congressman Shadegg (if he were running again) because he exposed their continued immunity from lawsuits under ERISA in the Democrat House health care bill. It could also be that a consumer group, thankful to Waring for taking on cell companies, could run ads lauding his courage. The point is that the Supreme Court decision will likely fundamentally change the game of federal elections for the near future.