For all their carping about Donald Trump and the GOP attempting to stifle speech, the Democrats are reaching pretty far in trying to regulate our freedom of expression. Newly installed (or should I say re-installed) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is already cobbling together a left-wing agenda that she will push when Congress gets back to work next week. One of her key items of legislation is a major retooling of the campaign finance system that would funnel some of our hard-earned tax money to “preferred candidates” in order to encourage “grass-roots activism.”
Just typing those phrases on my laptop makes me shudder. The details of Pelosi’s plan are muddy at best right now, but David Harsanyi reports over at The Federalist that part of it includes a provision that would match small donations by a whopping 6 to 1 ratio using government funds.
For a long time, the left has wanted to use taxpayer money to reward particular candidates at the expense of others. With Pelosi and her coterie of Democrats at the helm of the House, we can all predict which candidates would be the preferred ones – and which candidates wouldn’t get a dime of federal matching funds.
There’s also a provision in the plan that would require tax-exempt 501(c)(4) charitable organizations to disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. We already know what some Democrats think of businesses who make donations that their side doesn’t like, so imagine what it would look like if we could find lists of individuals’ and corporations’ large political donations all the time.
This isn’t the first time that government entities with a leftward bent have gotten involved in political speech. Hearken back to the early part of this decade when the Obama-era IRS showed bias against conservative organizations who sought tax-exempt status. Seattle has been giving out government-funded “democracy vouchers” – essentially taxpayer money to donate to candidates of your choice – since 2017, and other cities may soon follow suit.
Just like these other examples, the Pelosi plan is a bad idea. Basically, this legislation would allow whoever is in power to pick winners and losers, and taxpayers would have no say in who gets the money they’ve contributed to the system. My money could – and under a Democratic-controlled government, probably would – go to match funds for candidates I don’t care for. The opposite could hold true when the GOP takes the reins, so there’s a converse to Pelosi’s idea that could bite back.
Harsanyi hits the nail on the head when he writes:
There’s nothing, after all, in the Constitution about the state encouraging “grass-roots activism.” There is no amendment that calls on us to treat the First Amendment rights of Michael Bloomberg any differently than we do the grandmother who foolishly sends her Social Security check to Bernie Sanders. The word “fairness” isn’t mentioned a single time in the entire document.
There is something about abridging freedom of speech. And money is speech.
No matter who’s in power, it’s not the place of the government to say what candidates can get more money than others. It’s not up to Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump or anyone else to choose winners and losers when it comes to our election system.
Let’s ask ourselves which is worse: nasty tweets about political disagreements or pieces of sweeping legislation that gives some candidates more power to speak than others?