Lawrence Lessig, who thinks the recent Citizens United decision presents an opportunity to really fix the consuming problem of money in politics, has responded to critics who think that his expansionist strategy for campaign finance reform doesn’t fit the political moment, and that the set of reforms proposed by Chuck Schumer and Chris Van Hollen are laudable, Constitutional, and worthy:
But my argument is not that Congress should not enact these good, if not good enough, measures. Nor is it that the Court must hold them unconstitutional. It is instead that it is reckless to gamble that they won’t. This Court has become an angry old dog which has now bitten four times in a row. (The government is 0 for 4 in its defense of campaign finance regulations). Sure, maybe it won’t bite your kid. Maybe it will be the sweet moderate dog it was years ago. But you don’t need to be the parent of a young child to believe it reckless to let your kid play with this dog. And I don’t think you have to be a complete cynic about the Supreme Court to read their decisions to signal that this revolution is not yet over [...]
So if it is a “dose of realism” that we need, here is some realism: Connect the dots. The bold hopes of this extraordinary President have crashed on the shoals of the Fundraising Congress. Every single major reform is going to die, or get gutted, until this economy of influence changes. Tinkering is not enough. Returning to the world before Citizens United is not enough either. We need a leader to get America to see that there is a way to recover this democracy, and to get America to demand that change.
I think that’s very compelling, and recent public polling suggests that the public agrees. In fact, a new poll finds the same level of overwhelming support, even for a Constitutional amendment to remedy Citizens United and the nettlesome problem of campaign finance reform permanently.
The results of the poll include the following:
78% believe that corporations should be limited in how much they can spend to influence elections, and 70% believe they already have too much influence over elections
73% believe Congress should be able to impose such limits, and 61% believe Congress has done too little in the past to limit corporate influence over elections
Of the over 60% of Americans who have an opinion on a constitutional amendment to fix Citizens United, supports runs greater than 2 to 1
82% support limits on electioneering by government contractors, and 87% support limits on bailout recipients
85% support a complete ban on electioneering by foreign corporations
75% believe that a publicly traded company should get shareholder approval before spending money in an election
69% think that the President, in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy, should nominate a Justice who supports limits on corporate spending in elections
There’s nothing under a filibuster-proof majority in the bunch.
Lessig certainly believes that the fundraising issue is the great white whale which, if slayed, would reveal a Congress dedicated to public service and legislation for the good of the people. I’m not as optimistic. But there’s no question that a post-public financing world would best the world we have today.