Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform

Princeton University Press
Free sample

At a time when campaign finance reform is widely viewed as synonymous with cleaning up Washington and promoting political equality, Bradley Smith, a nationally recognized expert on campaign finance reform, argues that all restriction on campaign giving should be eliminated. In Unfree Speech, he presents a bold, convincing argument for the repeal of laws that regulate political spending and contributions, contending that they violate the right to free speech and ultimately diminish citizens' power.

Smith demonstrates that these laws, which often force ordinary people making modest contributions of cash or labor to register with the Federal Election Commission or various state agencies, fail to accomplish their stated objectives. In fact, they have worked to entrench incumbents in office, deaden campaign discourse, burden grassroots political activity with needless regulation, and distance Americans from an increasingly professional, detached political class. Rather than attempting to plug "loopholes" in campaign finance law or instituting taxpayer-financed campaigns, Smith proposes a return to core First Amendment values of free speech and an unfettered right to engage in political activity.


Smith finds that campaign contributions have little corrupting effect on the legislature and shows that an unrestrained system of contributions and spending actually enhances equality. More money, not less, is needed in the political system, Smith concludes. Unfree Speech draws upon constitutional law and historical research to explain why campaign finance regulation is doomed and to illustrate the potentially drastic costs of efforts to make it succeed. Whatever one thinks about the impact of money on electoral politics, no one should take a final stand without reading Smith's controversial and important arguments.

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About the author

Bradley A. Smith is Professor of Law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. As of May 2000, he has been serving a six-year term on the Federal Election Commission.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Feb 9, 2009
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781400824717
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Political Process / Campaigns & Elections
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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At first glance, campaign finance reform looks like a good idea. McCain-Feingold, for instance, regulates campaigns by prohibiting national political parties from accepting soft money contributions from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals. But are such measures, or any of the numerous and similarly restrictive proposals that have circulated through Washington in recent years, really good for our democracy?

John Samples says no, and here he takes a penetrating look into the premises and consequences of the long crusade against big money in politics. How many Americans, he asks, know that there is little to no evidence that campaign contributions really influence members of Congress? Or that so-called negative political advertising actually improves the democratic process by increasing voter turnout and knowledge? Or that limits on campaign contributions make it harder to run for office, thereby protecting incumbent representatives from losing their seats of power?

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Defying long-held ssumptions and conventional political wisdom, The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform is a provocative and decidedly nonpartisan work that will be essential for anyone concerned about the future of American government.

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The media–Democrat “collusion narrative,” which paints Donald Trump as cat’s paw of Russia, is a studiously crafted illusion.

Despite Clinton’s commanding lead in the polls, hyper-partisan intelligence officials decided they needed an “insurance policy” against a Trump presidency. Thus was born the collusion narrative, built on an anonymously sourced “dossier,” secretly underwritten by the Clinton campaign and compiled by a former British spy. Though acknowledged to be “salacious and unverified” at the FBI’s highest level, the dossier was used to build a counterintelligence investigation against Trump’s campaign.

Miraculously, Trump won anyway. But his political opponents refused to accept the voters’ decision. Their collusion narrative was now peddled relentlessly by political operatives, intelligence agents, Justice Department officials, and media ideologues—the vanguard of the “Trump Resistance.” Through secret surveillance, high-level intelligence leaking, and tireless news coverage, the public was led to believe that Trump conspired with Russia to steal the election.

Not one to sit passively through an onslaught, President Trump fought back in his tumultuous way. Matters came to a head when he fired his FBI director, who had given explosive House testimony suggesting the president was a criminal suspect, despite privately assuring Trump otherwise. The resulting firestorm of partisan protest cowed the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel, whose seemingly limitless investigation bedeviled the administration for two years.

Yet as months passed, concrete evidence of collusion failed to materialize. Was the collusion narrative an elaborate fraud? And if so, choreographed by whom? Against media–Democrat caterwauling, a doughty group of lawmakers forced a shift in the spotlight from Trump to his investigators and accusers. This has exposed the depth of politicization within American law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. It is now clear that the institutions on which our nation depends for objective policing and clear-eyed analysis injected themselves scandalously into the divisive politics of the 2016 election.

They failed to forge a new Clinton administration. Will they succeed in bringing down President Trump?
"One of the more momentous books of the decade."—The New York Times Book Review

Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger—all by the time he was thirty. He solidified his standing as the nation's foremost political forecaster with his near perfect prediction of the 2012 election. Silver is the founder and editor in chief of the website FiveThirtyEight. 
 
Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.

In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data, Silver visits the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. He explains and evaluates how these forecasters think and what bonds they share. What lies behind their success? Are they good—or just lucky? What patterns have they unraveled? And are their forecasts really right? He explores unanticipated commonalities and exposes unexpected juxtapositions. And sometimes, it is not so much how good a prediction is in an absolute sense that matters but how good it is relative to the competition. In other cases, prediction is still a very rudimentary—and dangerous—science.

Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.

With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our predictions, Nate Silver’s insights are an essential read.

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Former Secret Service agent and NYPD police officer Dan Bongino joins forces with journalist D.C. McAllister to clear away fake news and show you how Trump’s political opponents, both foreign and domestic, tried to sabotage his campaign and delegitimize his presidency. By following the names and connections of significant actors, the authors reveal:

 

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