Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lessig on Citizens United

Earlier this week, the Boston Review posted a forum on the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which overturned campaign finance restrictions some of which dated back more than a century in order to protect the political speech of corporations. Each of the contributions to the forum is interesting, but I find myself in strong agreement with Harvard Law Professor's Lawrence Lessig's perspective (here), in which he accuses Justice Kennedy in particular of conflating voters with campaign contributors. In one passage of his opinion for the majority, Kennedy writes as follows:
Favoritism and influence are not . . . avoidable in representative politics. It is in the nature of an elected representative to favor certain policies, and, by necessary corollary, to favor the voters and contributors who support those policies.
Lessig rightly argues that Kennedy was just plain wrong to imply that the framers intended representatives in Congress to represent the interests of anyone other than voters, including campaign contributors.

As a practical matter, I don't believe Citizens United changes much. There were always other avenues by which corporate money could influence electoral contests. As a matter of constitutional law, however, I think it both a bad ruling and an unwise one.

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