When First Amendment objections are raised against various proposals for campaign finance “reform,” the reformers like to respond simply that “money doesn’t equal speech.” Apparently neither President Obama, nor his campaign attorney, got that memo.
President Obama has announced he’ll set up a 501(c)(4) nonprofit called Organizing for Action to advocate his policy priorities. Bob Bauer, former Obama White House counsel who also headed up the legal team for the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012, is now providing services to the nonprofit, which will be allowed to accept contributions in unlimited amounts, including from corporations. As reported by Bloomberg BNA ($) (Hat tip Election Law Blog), Bauer explained at a recent Cato conference why he’s working for the nonprofit and why it plans to spend tons of money:
Bauer said that he is serving as counsel to the new organization and that it “will not be involved in electoral activity at all.” He said the group will be involved in public policy advocacy, adding that the “business of communication on issues … requires resources.”
This is a candid admission from Obama’s own campaign attorney that the Supreme Court had it exactly right in Buckley v. Valeo when it recognized that freedom of speech includes not only freedom to shout to passersby from a street corner, but also the freedom to use financial resources to disseminate ideas:
That is because virtually every means of communicating ideas in today’s mass society requires the expenditure of money. The distribution of the humblest handbill or leaflet entails printing, paper, and circulation costs. Speeches and rallies generally necessitate hiring a hall and publicizing the event. The electorate’s increasing dependence on television, radio, and other mass media for news and information has made these expensive modes of communication indispensable instruments of effective political speech.
It’s nice to see somebody from the left actually admit this is true.
There is much more to discuss with this story, considering Obama’s completely hypocritical stance on political spending, especially since Citizens United (remember his distasteful–and inaccurate– comments about the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2011 State of the Union?).