Guest Columns

BAILEY: FIGHTING OR ENABLING CORRUPTION?

The ‘Fight Washington Corruption’ pledge will increase corruption if enacted

By Stephen Bailey
GUEST COLUMNIST

MoveOn.org’s “Fight Washington Corruption” pledge will enable that which it purports to fight. Not only does it fail to attack the source of corruption, the planks of the pledge, if enacted, will increase the opportunities and incentives to corrupt. To understand why, we need to explore the planks of the pledge.


The target of the first plank is to overturn the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year. Justice Scalia’s concurring opinion is more on target than the majority opinion. The 1st amendment concisely and unambiguously states: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …”

Scalia points out that corporations existed at the time the Constitution was written and historical evidence indicates that an exclusion for corporations would have been included had that been the intent.

Scalia emphasizes that our freedom to speak exists in the context of our free association with others: “[The dissenting opinion] never shows why ‘the freedom of speech’ that was the right of Englishmen did not include the freedom to speak in association with other individuals, including association in the corporate form.” If freedom of speech can be abridged in the context of the free association of shareholder, employee, vendor or customer of a corporation, then it can be abridged in any associational context, e.g., labor unions, PACs, etc. Any abridgement of the freedom of speech fails to fight corruption as any speech related to exposing such corruption could be forbidden if the speech came from any form of association such as an issue advocacy group dedicated to exposing corruption.

The second plank of the pledge advocates the Fair Elections Now Act. This act would provide government funding of federal elections. That’s right! Corruption is to be fought by awarding power over financing campaigns to the organization accused of being corrupt: The federal government. The transparent, emotional ploy underlying the Fair Elections Now Act is that money is the root of all evil and that money in politics is prima facie evidence of corruption. It is really an attempt by politicians to be awarded the unearned.

As with all campaign finance “reform” laws, the Fair Elections Now Act will fail to drive money from politics because it fails to eliminate the incentive for extortion-bribery. If a politician is willing to exercise his power to benefit a contributor or the detriment of an opponent’s benefactor (or a neutral), then is it the fault of the extortion’s victim that he is compelled to bribe the politician? How does forcing a taxpayer to financially support a candidate that advocates views diametrically opposed to his interests prevent corruption? Isn’t that corruption in its own right?

The third plank is a hodge-podge of three lobbying restrictions. Two of the restrictions apply only to corporate lobbyists. Presumably, non-profit lobbies such as Sierra Club and MoveOn.org would be exempt. These restrictions will work no better than all previous restrictions. The 1st amendment recognizes our right to petition our government for a redress of grievances. That is, lobbying is a right. It is impossible to fight corruption by giving those that are corrupt the power to forbid us from lobbying them to stop the corruption! And who knows better how to stop corruption? Someone who has been on the inside as part of the system.

The “Fight Washington Corruption” pledge will increase corruption if enacted. There is a common flaw present in each plank of the pledge. That flaw is power and to whom it is awarded: politicians and bureaucrats. To fight corruption, power must be devolved from government authority and restored to the people. The federal government today can determine the economic life or death of a corporation. When ObamaCare is fully implemented, DC will have power over our life or death. When a government wields this type of power, then people will spend huge sums of money to influence bureaucratic and legislative decisions. Fight corruption by limiting the power of government.

Stephen Bailey is the Republican candidate for Congress in District 2. He is running against Democratic incumbent Jared Polis, who supports both the Fair Elections Now Act and the MoveOn.org pledge.