Weber and von Spakovsky | How a Former Justice Wants to Restrict Your Political Participation

Walter Weber and Hans von Spakovsky, Real Clear Politics:

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently made an intriguing, but misguided (and unconstitutional) argument about campaign finance laws in Washington Lawyer that will make some happy that he is no longer on the Court. Alluding to the federal ban on campaign contributions by foreign nationals, Justice Stevens contends that Americans should not be able to spend money to influence the outcome of an election that they are ineligible to vote in.

Thus, according to Stevens, a flat ban on corporations and unions (which cannot vote in any elections at all) making campaign expenditures would be constitutional. But this would also prevent a resident of Texas from making a campaign contribution in support of a candidate in Nevada or buying an ad in a Nevada newspaper with a political message about that candidate.

Despite its unconstitutionality, this approach may have some surface appeal. No longer could rich corporate, union, or out-of-state individual interests influence, or attempt to influence, local elections. Planned Parenthood could not use its massive funds to target pro-life candidates or ballot questionsanywhere. Multi-millionaire Tim Gill could not pour money into elections outside of Colorado to sabotage the chances of candidates who support traditional marriage. Wealthy teachers unions could not dump big bucks into political races to support their agenda. Instead, individual Texas voters would fund Texas campaigns; individual Nevada voters would fund Nevada campaigns; etc.

But there is a difference between residents of other countries and residents of other states. A Frenchman cannot move tomorrow to Louisiana and register to vote in the next election; but we could. Indeed, it is a privilege of citizenship to move freely from state to state. Americans therefore have important, immediate interests in governance throughout the nation, not just in their own particular state.


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