President Obama decried the new Supreme Court ruling on corporate money in politics stating:
The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special-interest money in our politics … It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health-insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. — President Barack Obama
I disagree with the word “New.” Special interests learned to get their message out while accommodating the restrictions of McCain-Feingold and other limits in a manner that makes the “who” behind the money much harder to find. I like the Supreme Court ruling because I would rather know who is paying whom for what.
Instead of Corporations paying for message directly and the public knowing who is behind the latest meme, everything is indirect and several places removed. So you have a Union or Corporation paying a foundation, and that foundation paying a faux political action group, a Faux think tank, (aka “Stink tank” – Discovery Institute, Heartland Institute, ACORN, Worldwatch, etc.)
These in turn spin off chaff for highly conservative and highly liberal “news” outlets (e.g. Frontpage, Pacifica Radio, AFR, etc. etc.,) which in turn back candidates and causes. Their chaff in turn is re amplified by crowd sourcing the bloggers within the political spectrum, and I suspect there’s a bit of “paid promotional amplification” going on as well. (see this very interesting Berkman Center lecture, then think about comment Spam and it’s origination after.)
It’s very time consuming if you you want to track that buzz or meme or outrage of the day to true source, but more oft than not it can be followed back to a special interest group who is highly anonymous to the general public.
I prefer a political environment where anyone may freely speak or pay, but where every penny is associated back to true source and recorded online as part of public record within 48 hours. Americans are some of the smartest media consumers in the world and it’s counterproductive to create restrictions that demand subterfuge for communication because with each step removed from the original source of the sometimes valid argument additional hysteria, hyperbole, and sometimes outright lies get baked into the message. It’s very hard to have an adult conversation about true issues in that media environment. We don’t need to limit money or speech, but we do need to see who is signing the checks. In my opinion it’s well past time to update our restrictions on political speech to match the new media.
Update: more background on this law, other campaign laws, and conflicting claims at Politifact.