Shameless

An attack ad using President Obama’s voice doesn’t “clearly identify” any candidate and therefore isn’t an “electioneering message” covered by disclosure rules. So say all three of the Republicans on the FEC.

Yes, it’s true: all three Republicans on the Federal Elections Commission voted to rule that political TV spots referring to “the White House” or “the Administration” or using Barack Obama’s voice don’t “clearly identify” any candidate for federal office and therefore don’t qualify as “electioneering messages.” That obviously absurd interpretation would allow the people paying for the attacks to continue to cower in anonymity behind the veil of a super-PAC.

Those who believe – or profess to believe – absurdities will inevitably commit atrocities.

Republicans’ willingness to lie, cheat, and steal will remain a strategic advantage unless and until the press starts calling them out for it.

I’m not holding my breath.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

37 thoughts on “Shameless”

  1. “…until the press starts calling them out for it. ”

    What press? The impartial, objective press died with the birth of the internet. All we have now is opinion masquerading as objectivity.

  2. Well, it’s not any more absurd than pretending that “electioneering communications” aren’t exactly the sort of speech the 1st amendment was most concerned with preventing the government from regulating.

    The impartial, objective press was a myth from the very start, all the internet did was deprive them of the power to prevent the views they were suppressing from being heard, exposing their opinion masquerading as objectivity.

    1. Er, you realize that the case before the FEC relates to political advertisements, not news stories or organizations, right? And that the issue isn’t even regulating “speech” anymore (apparently now the meaning of “Golden Rule” is “he who has the gold, makes the rules” without any trace of irony) but simply attempting to have those who fund such advertisements release the names of those providing the funding. Which doesn’t sound that controversial to ME; then again, I’m not the one attempting to use the national election process as PR for a multi-billion dollar industry.

      But other than that, your analysis is spot on.

      1. You do realize that I don’t see any constitutionally relevant distinction between advertisements and news stories, don’t you? Political ads deserve all the protection of newspaper editorials. (Which are just in-kind donations from people who happen to run newspapers, no different from a taxi service owner providing a candidate with free transport.)

        1. “You do realize that I don’t see any constitutionally relevant distinction between advertisements and news stories”

          actually, I didn’t, but boy, that sure explains a lot.

          what color is the sky in your world?

          1. Blue. Meanwhile, back in your world, there’s nothing problematic about incumbent office holders regulating the speech of people trying to unseat them.

          2. So: BB 1 Strawman 0, since I said nothing about the regulation of speech. Or any purported regulation somehow originating solely by incumbents attempting to silence their opposition.

            What I do have a big honking crazy ass problem with and hate on for is the one’s funding the alleged “speech” being able to hide in the shadows, unaccountable to either the public figures actually, you know, RUNNING FOR OFFICE, or to the American people whose views and agendas they claim to represent. It’s bad enough that the current legal climate says that the size of one’s voice in the political discourse is limited to those who have the funding to purchase the appropriate media platform to air their views. What’s beyond the pale for me is not knowing whose views are being aired. If you read the linked article (and I have to believe that you did, and you’re just being obtuse) you already know that the case in question is dealing solely with the question of whether “donors” (i.e., those whose deep pockets are paying for the air time) have to disclose their identities. In my world, that’s on par with whether a cop should tell you what crime you’re being charged with when you’re arrested. From the tone of the linked article, I’m obviously being naive.

        2. newspaper editorials generally have a byline identifying the author, taxi companies providing free transport have drivers who can be identified and generally an identification of the company. if their first amendment rights aren’t being violated by their being identified in what sense does it violate the rights of those people sponsoring political ads by having their identities disclosed?

        3. So is Copyright law and Trademark law unconstitutional restrictions of the first amendment?

          Your first amendment absolutism ignores the body of law and tradition.
          But mandating disclosure is one such condition, considering the special place elections have in democracy. And the actual history of corruption.

    2. Brett, it may interest you to recall that the current Supreme Court – the same one that decided in Citizens United that corporations are people, money is speech, and neither can be regulated – not only made noises within Citizens United that appeared to endorse disclosure requirements, it also settled a case from Washington State about the public disclosure of supporters of an anti-Gay ballot initiative; the Court backed the idea that people making a public statement have no expectation of secrecy, and that disclosure can be compelled.

      We are not in this case asking whether people should be allowed to spend unlimited money advocating their position, nor even whether corporate officers should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of other peoples’ money doing so; we’re only asking whether they should be allowed to do so secretly.

      1. Are any of you actually reading what I wrote? I asserted that the ruling “that political TV spots referring to “the White House” or “the Administration” or using Barack Obama’s voice don’t “clearly identify” any candidate for federal office and therefore don’t qualify as “electioneering messages.” ISN’T “any more absurd than pretending that “electioneering communications” aren’t exactly the sort of speech the 1st amendment was most concerned with preventing the government from regulating.”

        Unless you think that I DON’T support the freedom to engage in electioneering communications, (In which case why did I say “pretending”?) then I’m not defending the position of the Republicans on the FEC.

        1. your clarification raises more questions than it answers. or rather it fails to answer the multitude of questions your original comments raised. i know it’s probably pointless but let me ask you 2 questions to try and clarify what many of us see as, well, let’s call them problems with your comments–

          1. do you think there is anything unconstitutional about a law requiring people who fund political ads have their identities disclosed?

          2. do you think the republicans in congress have or haven’t worked, to a record extent, to obstruct the president from carrying out his duties as he sees them?

          and a couple of bonus questions

          1. do you think that anyone who uses illegal drugs is actually an addict using either the clinical or dictionary definitions of the word “addict?”

          2. do you think that barack obama was born in hawaii in 1961?

          i realize that you either won’t answer any of the questions or you will change the subject (oooh shiny!!!!!) in such a way as to take us off topic but i ask the questions anyway just to have another place for cranky to post his “crickets.wav” link to one of your previous examples of absurdity. this is the main reason why i, at first, thought you were a comic.

          1. 1. At the state level? No. barring some evidence the info is sought for retaliation. Don’t see any enumerated power for it at the federal level. The “time, place, and manner” clause not applying to speech that just happens to concern elections, rather than the actual conduct of them.

            2. Damn straight they have, and properly so, since they see those duties differently. That doesn’t mean that they’re opposing Obama’s professed ends, of course. It may be a common trope on the left that all your opponents agree that your means are well chosen, and oppose the because they’ll work, but that doesn’t make it true.

            and,

            1. I think any politician who uses illegal drugs should normally expect to be called an addict, and that if Romney admitted to having used cocaine in college there’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell that Democrats wouldn’t call him such. I also think that anybody who has previously used a drug with as much addicting potential as cocaine is naturally suspected of having been an addict, and properly subject to inquiries as to whether they still are.

            2. Yeah, actually, and I have thought it very likely all along. I also think that, given that clause in the Constitution, people who doubted that were entitled to be confronted with the best available evidence they were wrong, not just whatever Obama felt like providing. Finally, I do wonder what aim Obama had in artificially prolonging the controversy. Since, as was ultimately demonstrated, he could produce the birth certificate if he felt like it.

          2. thanks for defeating my expectations of you. i find much to disagree with in your answers but at least they are direct answers to what i had asked.

            i would have to say that none of the major cases relating to time place, and manner would lead me to the conclusion that the disclosure of sponsorship for political ads is unconstitutional.

            if you think the republicans are opposing democratic party means without opposing their ends i have to ask, even though i know you’ll say blue, what color the sky is on your planet?

            let me repeat for the third time my question– how many times did national politicians, editorialists for major papers, reporters for the mainstream media, or anyone of note refer to george w bush as a drug addict during the course of the primaries leading up to his nomination, during the election campaign leading up to his presidency, or during the eight years of his presidency?

            obama didn’t produce the long form birth certificate when he felt like it. he didn’t produce it at all. it became available only when the state of hawaii made the, so far as i know, unique and unprecedented decision to release it.

          3. Case in Point:
            Brett, rather than answer bonus question 1 straight, you get all cute and legalistic. We are left to infer your true thoughts.

          4. “i would have to say that none of the major cases relating to time place, and manner would lead me to the conclusion that the disclosure of sponsorship for political ads is unconstitutional.”

            But that inverts the Constitution. The question to be answered, whenever Congress asserts a power, is not what makes it unconstitutional, but what makes it constitutional. If you can’t give a specific answer, then it’s unconstitutional. Congress is not, after all, given a grant of general power with specified exceptions. Per the 10th amendment, it is given a grant of a series of specific powers, with some general restrictions on their use. Congress’ power are the islands, the states’ power is the ocean. For a state it might make sense to ask what makes the exercise unconstitutional, for the federal government, it skips right past the first question you should ask.

            Where in the Constitution do you identify the source of this particular power? I don’t see any plausible candidates.

            MK, some people who use drugs are “addicts”, some are not. I think I adequately explained this when the subject originally came up. I really do not know where Obama fell on this spectrum, though cocaine IS one of the more rapidly addicting drugs around. That he’s fairly enthusiastically imprisoning people for conduct identical to his own is not subject to question.

          5. regarding your use of the term “addict”–no, you did not adequately explain yourself on this point in the comments to that post cranky keeps pointing back to and you’re really only obfuscating those non-responses to that post with your failing the turing test (hereafter to be referred to as fttt) here. i am reminded of the dialogue in a monty python skit where the customer attempting to purchase that argument ends up saying:

            –it isn’t just the automatic gainsaying of the last statement of the other person.

            –yes it is.

            –no it isn’t.

            and, just to get to the heart of your repeated insistence about what might be said if it came out that romney had used cocaine, for the fourth time i ask you how many times did national politicians, editorialists for major papers, reporters for the mainstream media, or anyone of note refer to george w bush as a drug addict during the course of the primaries leading up to his nomination, during the election campaign leading up to his presidency, or during the eight years of his presidency?

            your ocean/island metaphor for constitutional federalism might have convinced you but it doesn’t scan. even if you think that the national and state governments are coequal powers under the constitution a better metaphor would have been continents/oceans. if you look back at the kind of laws and actions the governments of the founders’ generation took, the best use of that metaphor would have the states as the continents and the national as the oceans.

          6. “if you look back at the kind of laws and actions the governments of the founders’ generation took, the best use of that metaphor would have the states as the continents and the national as the oceans.”

            Look, read the 10th amendment. Here it is:

            “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

            Any power not delegated to the federal government is reserved for either the states or the people. (Depending on the details of state constitutions.) This is the basis of enumerated powers doctrine, an amendment adopted for the specific purpose of underscoring that the federal government only has those particular powers it was given.

            This is why the first question to be asked is, “Where is Congress given this power?”. Because if you can’t answer that, there’s no point in proceeding any further, it’s a reserved power.

          7. for the fifth time i ask you, brett bellmore. how many times did national politicians, editorialists for major papers, reporters for the mainstream media, or anyone of note refer to george w bush as a drug addict during the course of the primaries leading up to his nomination, during the election campaign leading up to his presidency, or during the eight years of his presidency?

        2. You have a very indirect way of indicating your opinions.
          You could come out straight and say “Yes, the 3 (R) FEC members are shamelessly ruling.” while still noting that the law behind the FEC is a crock.

          We, outside your brain, are not as good at hearing the sub-text that you think is obvious.

          1. Or say that ‘the entire law is absurd, so any rulings based on it will be absurd. Therefore folks should rule however will benefit themselves.’

            And note that ‘(D) would rule just as shamelessly as (R)s do were the situation reversed. ‘

          2. Instead of coming out and saying that the ruling wasn’t any more of a crock than the law behind it? Sorry, didn’t think I was dealing with 6 year olds.

            Or rather, reduced to the equivalent by their reflexive tendency to reject anything coming from a political opponent before considering it. Should have realized it, though: Half the time I agree with you guys on something, you don’t even notice, you’re so busy arguing with one of the cardboard cutouts you’ve made of “typical conservatives”.

          3. Brett, you are dealing with 6 year olds. It’s the internet. We’re dealing with 6yos. too. Until we invent telepathy, use plain and simple English please.
            Saying ‘I agree with you, except for X’ works wonders.

            And you as well spend time arguing with cardboard cutouts too. Don’t take it as an insult – it’s an easy trap to fall into. That, and only addressing the weakest point of your debate partner.

        3. So your comment in this thread (which has to do with disclosure requirements, and shamelessly partisan efforts to neuter them) had nothing to do with this thread at all, and the people reacting to its disparaging tone misinterpreted your intent. I can see how that could happen, if you post disparaging comparison to other things. But if you do that, you’re hardly participating in the conversation at hand; arguably, doing that is a form of trolling.

          1. brett’s posts have a weird consistency that encourages me to propose the “bellmore principle of uncertainty.”

            the more on-topic a post by brett bellmore is the less coherent it is.
            the more coherent a post by brett bellmore is the less on topic it is.
            a post by brett bellmore that is both on-topic and coherent would probably create a singularity into which this entire blog would vanish.

          2. No, no, you don’t understand, the constant bringing of the tu quoque, the fallacy of the excluded middle, et al., are how he’s supposed to be making everyone into better debaters, remember? It’s not a failure on his part, it’s your inability to sharpen your blade against his whetstone. As it were.

  3. why should this surprise you mr. kleiman? haven’t the republicans as a party done everything within their power to prevent an economic recovery? hasn’t the republican party used the filibuster to a record extent in their pursuit of regaining the white house? hasn’t they blocked and delayed the appointments made by obama to a record extent? if you can swallow an elephant it’s easy enough to swallow a gnat.

  4. “hasn’t they blocked and delayed the appointments made by obama to a record extent?”

    Strictly, nah. Obama just got off to a really slow start nominating, his percentage of nominees confirmed is right in line with other Presidents, similarly how long they waited before they got voted on. But the Senate can’t confirm nominees who never get nominated, and that’s the President’s end of things, not the Senate’s.

    And claiming he didn’t nominate because they would have been filibustered? Just sad, that’s all.

  5. Mark, you might want to point this out to Don; for some reason he believes in some sort of Republican with whom reasonable deals can be struck.

  6. And I guess we can expect the Justice Department to do … exactly what about it? Funny how there was oodles of time and money to try to jack up Edwards.

  7. What are you expecting them to do? Go after the Republican FEC commissioners? I don’t think Obama wants to create a precedent like that, too much potential for it to bite him 1-5 years from now.

    1. We are expecting fair and balanced outsiders to notice and condemn them for their shamelessness. But this has turned into another round of IOKIYAR.

  8. Yes, and Barry Obama reneged on his pledge to take federal funding, got courage on gay marriage only after being politically outed by crazy Joe, and unilaterally made policy on immigration, even though I agree with it, in shameless vote pandering. But keep pretending you leftists are saints.

    How many drones did your POS POTUS kill with today?

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