OPINION M107: Campaign 'fix' would limit voters' rights. Vote no.
Ballot Measure 107 is a Trojan horse. It won't limit the rich and powerful. Instead, it will disadvantage ordinary people against them. Measure 107 is based on false claims and unrealistic fears, and it will not do what its supporters claim. The data is clear that its purported benefits are an illusion, yet its costs are very real.
Money does not buy elections. Michael Bloomberg's failure in this year's Democratic presidential primary was an exquisite demonstration that there are many factors far more important than money. Bloomberg spent over a billion dollars, nearly as much as all his rivals combined, while Joe Biden sailed to an easy victory with just one-sixteenth the spending of his richer rivals.
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Money does not buy politicians, either. If my campaign slogan is "a chicken in every pot," and the National Chicken Council gives my campaign a million dollars, they aren't influencing me — I already supported their interests. Contributions naturally go from donors to candidates with similar values to support their persuasive political message. That is honest support, not an attempt at corruption.
Politicians are strongly ideological and therefore extremely difficult to corrupt. No environmentalist politician is going to vote for more pollution because they got a campaign contribution! There are few genuinely competitive districts where the money is very important. But even in those, why would a politician change their position on an issue — going against their own ideology — because of a donation that amounts to tenths of a percent of their campaign budget?
The Measure 107 "cure" — limits on contributions and expenditures — doesn't even address the alleged disease. If the problem is government officials using their power to benefit special interests, then the fault lies with those officials, not with the general public engaging in political speech. Measure 107 will take away the public's right to freedom of political speech yet won't affect the power of government officials. It is wrong to take away one person's rights because of someone else's actions.
Measure 107 would not limit the political speech of the rich. The First Amendment has protected independent expenditures from censorship since Buckley v. Valeo (1976), but this fact isn't mentioned in the measure or its ballot title. The super-rich will still be able to hire people, spend money and spread their political message without limit, and they will do that instead of donating directly to candidates. By contrast, ordinary people need to pool their resources with others in order to effectively spread their own political message — exactly what Measure 107's contribution limits would prevent!
Political organizations are vehicles through which individuals cooperate to jointly exercise their individual rights to political expression. Today, you have the right to contribute to political organizations to express your political opinions. Passing Measure 107 would mean unilateral disarmament: the rich could still spend money without limit on their political message, but you would face limits in pooling resources with others in order to spread a countervailing message. Rich people don't need to engage in politics through organizations, but ordinary people do!
An organization of people pooling their resources for the purpose of publicly criticizing an elected official serves a public benefit. That activity should never be curbed by the government, which has an obvious incentive to do so. Measure 107 would allow them to do it.
It is often mentioned that Oregon is one of a handful of states without contribution limits. We should be proud that our state Constitution protects our right to speak truth to power. We shouldn't jump off a bridge just because others have. Instead, we should look at what happened when they landed. Do states with campaign limits have better governments? They don't. A few years ago, the Center for Competitive Politics reported that, measured by the criteria of the Pew Center on the states, "… the distribution of the quality of governance among all 50 states is random when compared to a state's contribution limits, and, at worst, those states with no or high contribution limits perform much better in the Pew rankings than those states with moderate or low limits on what individuals may contribute to the legislative candidates of their choice."
The benefits are an illusion. The harms are real. Don't let Salem politicians con you into giving up your rights. Please read the arguments I published in the Oregon Voters' Pamphlet against this measure, and please protect your rights and the rights of ordinary Oregonians by voting "no" on Measure 107.
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