The following commentary by FTCR President Jamie Court was broadcast on KPCC 89.3FM in Pasadena, CA on Thursday, March 24, 2005. Click here to listen to the audio of the commentary.
Host: A Sacramento judge issued a preliminary ruling that allows Governor Schwarzenegger to control a group that is raising unlimited funds to push his ballot measures. Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, says Governor Schwarzenegger has turned into a traitor in the war for campaign finance reform.
Jamie Court – FTCR: When he ran for office, Arnold Schwarzenegger pledged he would stop the
influence of money in politics, and presented himself as THE campaign finance reformer. After taking office and raising more money than any politician in California history, Schwarzenegger THEN claimed he simply meant he was so rich that campaign cash had no influence over him.
Well, now we know for sure that money talks to Arnold Schwarzenegger. You see, to bust state fundraising limits for his ballot measures the Guv argued in court that raising as much money as possible is the equivalent of exercising his freedom of speech.
So, if Arnold thinks that money talks, how can he continue to claim that he’s not listening to his donors? And if money is speech, how can those of us without much of it be heard? You see why the legal logic is so troubling. It puts government and governors up for sale. That’s why even the Rehnquist-led US Supreme Court recently repudiated that reasoning.
Big business has relied on the “money is speech” argument for two-and-a-half decades to stymie campaign finance reformers in the courts. The tenor was set by a 1976 Supreme Court ruling that corporations have a right to speak via unlimited donations to political parties and Political Action Committees. In a 1978 decision the high court ruled that the first amendment right to speak through money trumped state limits on corporate spending for political referendums.
It was only a year-and-a-half ago that the Supreme Court said there is no absolute right to speak through campaign cash. That came in its ruling upholding the McCain-Feingold overhaul. Now Governor Schwarzenegger is trying to turn back the clock.
Arnold says the money is not for him, but for his so-called “reforms.” Well, Gray Davis didn’t pocket the dough either. Campaign cash is all about putting politicians on television and making them more popular.
Schwarzenegger clearly believes money is power, and that the cash to market himself and his spin will determine what voters remember, not the positions he takes. For campaign finance reformers, however, this Arnold will be remembered just like another famous one — Benedict.