Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Confederacy of Dunces Revisited

While Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele was savoring his court victory over Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was sawing off the limb he was sitting on.

The court struck down the “trigger provision” of Connecticut’s campaign finance system, a devise that awards extra public funds to candidates running against opponents not participating in the system who spend more than the system’s limits

Meanwhile, in a Connecticut court, Judge Julia Aurigemma has decided that Fedele’s view of a Connecticut statute which, in the not so humble opinion of this writer and an apprehensive U.S. Supreme Court, violates the Constitution is the correct one. In writing the Connecticut statute that violates the U.S. Constitution, the judge ruled, the legislature DID envision the possibility of two clever politicians bundling their contributions so that they may steer their skiff around a restriction limiting the amount of money they can accept as a legitimate campaign offering.

To put the matter briefly: All this litigatory nonsense is nonsense because McCain-Feingold and its myriad spawn is unconstitutional, and it is only a matter of time before an enlightened Supreme Court chucks the whole business as a impudent violation of the First Amendment.

But courts tend to disassemble unconstitutional structures brick by brink. “Time, there will be time,” says the poet:

“Time for visions and revision
That time will soon erase.”

The New York court said: No, you can’t deprive a candidate for office of his free speech rights. Money, most especially money used by private citizens to finance their own campaigns, as countless editorialists remind us daily, talks; therefore, it falls under the umbrella protections of the First Amendment. The court ruled that campaign contributions by lobbyists were acceptable; it also found that the so call “top off” provision of most campaign regulatory schemes was unconstitutional. Both rulings will reset the campaign contribution playing field in a way unacceptable to the levelers among us who hope to eliminate all advantages in pretty nearly every department of life.

To translate this into Connecticut terms, the New York Court ruled that Fedele cannot offset ALL the private money Foley pumps into his campaign with taxpayer generated “contributions.” The quotes imprisoning “contributions” are necessary because there ain’t no such animal as a tax “contribution.” All taxes are appropriated by force under threat of imprisonment, even that portion that some plucked citizens “agree” shall go to generic politicians.

So then, Fedele is constitutionally incapable of evening out the money spent by Foley through the Rube Goldberg mechanism the state legislature has created to “level” the campaign contribution playing field. The quotes imprisoning the word “level” are necessary here because – even if some constitutional devise could be found to “equalize” contributions between incumbents and challengers, the incumbent will never-the-less enjoy offsetting advantages, too numerous to mention here, that tilt the election playing field – life is so unfair – so as to accomplish his nefarious purposes.

At this point, no one can say for certain where all this judicial and legislative nonsense will end. It probably would have been much saner, and more effective, to scrap McCain-Feingold and steer all campaign contributions anonymously through party mechanisms. The contributions would in this way arrive at the door of an incumbent or a challenger masked, so that neither the incumbent nor the challenger could identify its source as originating from a PAC or a Robber Barron or a union or a patriot intent on steering his money to someone who genuflects before the Constitution.

But, you say, the routing method would assure that no challenger outside the two major parties would receive funds. Not true. The campaigner independent of the major political parties would simply have to start a party – this would be made effortless in the scheme here proposed -- and the tap would be open to him. But, you say, it’s hard to start a party.

But, I say, life is hard. At this point in our leap into a politically bleak future, my guess would be that independents, more numerous in Connecticut than either party, would be willing to donate to third parties – provided the distribution mechanism was not controlled by the usual political culprits disguised as politically disinterested citizens.

How to disguise the contributions?

Americans are an unusually inventive species: Where there’s a will, there will be a way.

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