Campaign Finance Reform Debate: full story on Citizens United, dark money, and influence-buying

This is a Moderate/ Centrist take on campaign finance reform talking points from both sides of the debate based on what research indicates.

Hey i’m matt geiger my goal is to tell you the full story not the liberal story or the conservative story in this video i’m going to tell you what the research really shows on money and politics on issues like dark money buying votes what did citizens united actually say and do so this is really the full story on the common campaign finance talking points the

First thing you hear a lot is that money buys elections and at first glance this makes perfect sense ninety percent of the time the person who raises the most money wins but the research actually indicates that this is a case of correlation not being the same as causation the research shows it’s most likely the opposite way around winning elections attracts money

Incumbents raise significantly more money than challengers and in general incumbents are extremely hard to beat the research shows money does not statistically help an incumbent win elections and the result of money for challengers is at best unclear in the research in fact studies have also found that the vast majority of political advertising only provides

A temporary bump and the bigger and more well-known the candidates the less impactfully advertising the exception to this is in cases where ads are making voters aware that a candidate or an issue even exists at all especially in a close race with no incumbent the next point you hear is that money can buy votes and access and despite what you may see as common

Sense the vast majority of research actually indicates lawmakers aren’t more likely to support legislation in response to campaign contributions the research indicates that it’s more likely again the other way around lawmakers have a certain opinion on an industry or group and those industries and groups in turn give them money to help them get them elected but

Then that brings up the question why would all these groups contribute many of them corporations that are by definition trying to make a profit the answer is that donors get access to the politicians which opens up the real possibilities in the form of lobbying let’s say for instance a legislator tends to support less regulations on banks regardless of whether

Money is contributed or not banks are more likely to contribute to not only help get that legislator elected but more importantly to get access especially for an incumbent who’s really likely to win anyways whether they give the money or not with that access a bank lobbyist may write part of a bill impacting banks and then approach the legislator to introduce

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It that legislator has significant pressure to introduce the bank written bill as it is considering the political contributions the fundraisers they throw connections to other lawmakers and members of the bureaucracy that the lobbyists can open up for them and potentially cushy industry jobs waiting for them after politics on the flip side often these bills are

Technical and industry specific the lawmaker may not even understand it and certainly the average voter won’t since the lawmaker generally supports banks it’s really easy for the politician to justify be getting behind that bill even if it goes too far or isn’t in the best interest of the country they could just sort of introduce what the lobbyist gave them the

Next point made is that politicians focus a significant portion of their time in office raising money instead of representing their constituents and that’s true some estimates and accounts by legislators peg at around 30 hours per week spent making calls to get money one lawmaker said there was a suggested schedule made by a political party showing lawmakers should

Spend only two hours out of 10 hours every day on actual policy because the majority of the time is spent calling donors lawmakers aren’t allowed to call donors from their own office so both political parties have booths at another location where lawmakers have to go to make donor calls asking for money so this one is 100 true the next common talking point that

You hear is that liberal progressive and populist legislation would get passed if only money could be eliminated from our elections in line with the research on the last few questions studies also indicate that this is not true in places that have been more successful in reducing the impact of big donors like maine and arizona there have been some very positive

Developments like a stronger pool of candidates and greater dialogue between candidates and voters but they haven’t gotten more liberal progressive or populist the reality is that a significant share of americans have just in general a distrust of governments the us has a system specifically by design that gives disproportionate power to rural communities and

The system again by design was intended for gridlock and deliberation more than it was for swift’s extreme action if progressives can’t get their agenda passed these are the primary reasons why money in politics is just a convenient scapegoat next you hear all the time that dark money is swamping our elections dark money is money that can’t be traced back to its

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Original source typically by donating through a type of nonprofit that doesn’t need to disclose its contributors or contributing through an llc in a state that doesn’t need to disclose its members in the 2020 election 474 million dollars of dark money was spent on the election by both sides combined in total 14.4 billion was spent on the election overall so dark

Money made up about 3.3 percent of the total if you want to understand more about what dark money is or how it works i cover all that in my video on an overview of the us campaign finance system you hear all the time that citizens united ruled that money is speech and corporations are people so here’s what citizens united said on the money is speech part it was

Actually already established that money is an expression of speech the question was around under what circumstances free speech can be curtailed previously the supreme court had ruled that the threat of corruption and allowing corporate spending within a few months of an election was a compelling enough interest to override free speech but in citizens united the

Supreme court said there was no evidence of corruption in cases of independent expenditures not coordinated with the campaign itself so the protection of free speech in that case was more important on the second part about corporations being people the supreme court ruled that it’s the speech being protected not the speaker so this means that it doesn’t matter

Where it comes from whether a corporation or an individual this overruled a previous ruling mcconnell v fec a few years prior that said corporations were unique in that they exist specifically for profit and therefore were prone to corrupt the system inherently i will say that there’s a natural impulse to despise this ruling but it’s a far more nuanced discussion

When you get into the details citizens united was a group making a movie critical of hillary clinton right before the election which was illegal at the time but the courts had previously ruled that michael moore’s movie was okay even though it was critical of george w bush right before an election because in that case that was a bona fide movie so you can see the

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Games and nuances that opens up for the court to create all these complex tests about what’s allowed and what’s not also the attorney making the government’s case in citizens united argued that mccain feingolds could suppress the publishing of a 500 page book before an election if it mentioned a candidate’s name even one time which does sound extreme and concerning

So again hopefully you can at least appreciate the challenge that was before the supreme court campaign finance reform and the first amendment have a constant tension and the line between them hasn’t always been clearly defined or logical so i do think there’s a potential for this to be revisited in the future especially once more analysis is done on the impact

Of unlimited external spending by corporations so that we can evaluate the corrupting influence this could potentially have polls show that the vast majority of people are concerned about money in politics and i agree with them it’s something distorting our whole democratic system but when you get the full story behind a lot of these common talking points you

See that the problems and solutions may be far more nuanced than we previously thought i know it’s easy to rail against money in politics because it’s such a simple narrative and it kind of makes intuitive sense but i think it’s important to specifically identify why we want to reduce the impact of money in politics what are we hoping to achieve because getting

Money out of politics isn’t the goal in and of itself it’s the corruption we need to target and if we aren’t getting rid of that we’re just wasting our time we need to surgically focus on how we can go about making that change if we don’t do that there’s a good chance that our next campaign finance reform won’t make the sort of difference that we’re hoping for

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Transcribed from video
Campaign Finance Reform Debate: full story on Citizens United, dark money, and influence-buying By Lonely Moderate