Today POLITICO Arena asks:
Has news coverage portraying super PAC donors as nefarious agents corrupting the political process, rather than citizens exercising First Amendment free speech rights, been fair and balanced?
Fair and balanced? Let's just say "uneven." Too often, however, the mainstream media's coverage of campaign finance reflects the populist "big-guy, little-guy" theme, and the irony is rich. Editorially, The New York Times and the Washington Post have simply obsessed over the issue, especially after the Court decided Citizens United. Corporate giants themselves, they raise the First Amendment flag in defense of their own right to influence elections, even as they condemn the efforts of other corporations -- and individuals -- to freely do the same.
And their arguments don't pass even the straight-face test. They're grounded mainly in fears about "corruption," yet they never cite any, because they can't. As attorney Paul Sherman at the Institute for Justice writes in this morning's Wall Street Journal, "Even before Citizens United, a majority of states allowed corporations to make unlimited political expenditures and some, including Virginia and Utah, even allowed unlimited corporate contributions directly to political candidates. Yet states that have long allowed corporations to speak freely haven't appeared more corrupt than those that censored corporate speech, and voters in those states are no more cynical or disillusioned."
Fortunately, the Roberts Court has been cutting through the specious arguments behind our insanely complex campaign finance law, written by incumbents to protect themselves from challengers. Concerning the mainstream media, what we have is the establishment protecting the establishment. Nothing new there.