campaign finance

Court ruling is unpopular, but right

The U.S. Supreme Court decision Wednesday striking down limits on total campaign contributions by individuals elicited strong disapproval from a host of Democrats and liberals, as well as from good-government groups. The instant criticism was overstated. The crucial reality in campaign finance regulation is that in a modern society, money and the people who have it will always play a large role in election contests.

Lawmakers can impede or divert the flow of dollars. But trying to eliminate it from politics is like trying to banish rain from Seattle.

In reality, this decision isn’t likely to have much effect on the amount of money spent on electioneering. The dissenters are right that lifting the ceiling may make it easier for donors to circumvent the limits on contributions to individual candidates. But as Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion stressed, Congress is free to tighten the rules.

What it isn’t free to do is ration speech about campaigns. Election years might be less noisy or irritating if less money were spent by people who want to spread a message. But they would also be less informative.

From an editorial in the Chicago Tribune