“An Egalitarian Approach to Campaign Finance Reform”

Very thoughtful Ryan Pevnick review in the New Rambler of my Plutocrats United book:

There are many interesting discussions in the book that should challenge readers to rethink standard liberal and conservative positions on campaign finance reform.  For instance, Hasen effectively demonstrates that the argument for protecting corporate speech is not consistent with the position that conservatives ordinarily take on questions related to foreign contributions.  If, as Justice Kennedy argues inCitizens United, corporate speech must be protected because it is critical that citizens have “the right and privilege to determine” for themselves “what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration,” then why should they not also be free to consider arguments put forward by foreigners?

Similarly, the book includes an interesting treatment of the difficulties that progressive reformers face in figuring out how to balance a commitment to political equality with protections of the press that confer significant political power on the owners of media outlets.  Thus, few readers will put down the book without being challenged to rethink important aspects of their positions.  However, I want to set these important issues aside in order to focus on Hasen’s equality-based justification for reform, since it lies at the heart of the book’s argument and raises fundamental issues for the reform movement. …

Particularly because Hasen is, I think, right that reformers should reject the view that the only appropriate goal of campaign finance reform is to eliminate corruption, it is crucial that proposed alternatives are capable of standing up to critical scrutiny.  The question for readers of Hasen’s provocative and important new book is: can “equality of inputs” meet that challenge?

I hope at some point to find the time to defend the equality of inputs argument against Ryan’s excellent critique.


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