The Lonely Centrist

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Is the Reform Lobby throwing in the Towel on Spending Limits?

Yesterday the Supreme Court announced that it would accept the case of
Vermont Republican State Committee v. Sorrell. The case involves a Vermont law that sets limits on how much a political candidate can spend.

Naturally, the reform lobby swung into action, issuing a spate of press releases. Over at Skeptic's Eye, the Skeptic mocks the horrible writing of the Democracy 21 press release, arguing that this sentence may be the worst written sentence ever:
Democracy 21 will join with others involved in the successful legal defense of the McCain-Feingold law to participate in these two cases in order to ensure that longstanding and well-established precedents to protect against the
corruption of democracy are not overturned or undermined by a Supreme Court currently in transition.

Well, it is poorly written, no doubt about that. My first thought, though, was more along the lines of, "what 'well-established precedents' are we talking about?" After all, in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court very clearly ruled that expenditure limits are unconstitutional, and numerous lower court decisions have reaffirmed that (Sorrell itself being the exception that sticks out like Dick Cheney at a Cindy Sheehan rally.) So I thought that this was just typical misleading propaganda from the reform lobby.

But elsewhere in the Democracy 21 press release , our naive friends admit that Buckley held that spending limits were unconstitutional. And immediately after the horrible sentence above, our naive friends at Democracy 21 write:

These Supreme Court precedents include the constitutionality of contribution limits, the constitutionality of the ban on the use of corporate and labor union
funds in federal elections and the constitutionality of laws enacted to prevent circumvention of these limits and prohibitions, including the McCain-Feingold

So when Democracy 21 says it intends to support "well-established precedents," is it saying that it won't support spending limits in court? Is it limiting its advocacy to defending contribution limits (also at issue in the case)? If so, this is major news.

Alas, I fear the more likely reading is that Democracy 21 hopes the press will quote the stuff about "well-established precedent" and assume that Democracy 21 is referring to spending limits as well - or at least use the quote in the papers, where most readers will be deceived. Most members of the press won't check with a truly reliable source, and for those that do, Democracy 21 can point out that they did note that Buckley had struck down spending limits. I guess we'll see when Democracy 21 files its briefs.

  • The Skeptic
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Michael Barone
  • The New Republic
  • National Review
  • Democracy Project
  • Bob Bauer
  • Center for Competitive Politics
  • Ryan Sager
  • Going to the Matt
  • Professor Bainbridge
  • Volokh Conspiracy
  • Mystery Pollster
  • Amitai Etzioni
  • Alexander Chrenkoff
  • Middle East Media Research Institute
  • Right Democrat
  • Democrats for Life