Looking at official candidate committees for Senate+Congress only in '16 is close-ish to 30mm raised (1). Plus PACs, 501c3/4s, any Presidential spend on top, I would guess double that at least. Even if 50mm total spend that would be only 2% spent on FB which seems really low, based on a low spend estimate.
I wonder where they got these numbers...
I'm personally applauding Washington for taking this bold move, as both Facebook and Google have Seattle-area offices which they will likely not want to close. Washington and Oregon tend to act alike, and both Facebook and Google have not just offices in Oregon, but datacenters too, with the Prineville and The Dalles facilities respectively.
Edit: You want pseudonymous/anonymous/corporate speech in politics? Form a PAC and donate to it. That's what PACs are for. Might as well stand for "Pseudonyms, Anons, and Corporations", am I right?
So if you're reading this, instead of down voting everyone on the other side or yelling about democracy in a reply, I'd just urge you to leave this site of random pseudo anonymous opinions, and maybe go somewhere else to learn a little about the case instead.
Radiolab's More Perfect does a great job of providing the backstory:
The oral arguments on Oyez have even more back and forth if you like, including I think even a few arguments and turns Radiolab missed.
I think you can leave that episode with either opinion about the finding. But either way you'll leave that episode smarter, which seems like a hackery sort of value.
Quick, before it all devolves further, fly you fools!
I think the problem is that this isn’t a philosophical question. It’s an ethical one. But, the only way to be ‘fair and balanced’ is to purport it as philosophical.
Money does, however, enable speech, and restrictions on things which enable us to exercise fundamental rights is at least potentially a restriction on that right. That's the framework the Supreme Court used.
If you disagree, consider: Pick a right you quite like (gun ownership, abortion, speech, voting in an election, etc.). Clearly a law banning that activity outright, or severely restricting it ("you can't obtain an abortion", "you can only speak in favour of Trump", "you can't own a handgun", "you can only vote for the Democratic candidate") would be absurdly illegal. It follows that a law preventing you from spending money on that right ("you cannot pay for an abortion", "you cannot spend money on criticising Trump", "you can't purchase a handgun", "you can't spend money travelling to the polls unless voting for a Democrat") would also be illegal (if severe enough at least).
The scope in which government can make your ability to exercise fundamental rights more difficult is non-zero, but sharply proscribed (witness the long string of court decisions striking down red state abortion laws).
It's possible that the restriction at stake in Citizens United was so minor that it should have been permissible, but I take your argument to be that it was anything but minor. In which case, the restriction probably was unconstitutional. In the US system, speech is protected, and (like it or not!) political speech is the most protected form. Any law which meaningfully impacts any real person's ability to speak about politics is presumptively unconstitutional, by design. And the more meaningful the restriction, the more that applies.
The whole point of free speech is to prevent single origin messages. To promote more ideas and perspectives. And prevent people from shutting up opposite views.
But the constitution isn't perfect. Its hard to make sure your hard rules will work for all context.
I think in this case, there's a fear that now that money is getting more and more disproportionate and concentrated into a single origin. The power to speak will follow into that same disproportionate single origin.
Maybe free speech still enables all to speak, but the uneven distribution of money causes some to speak much louder. So the question is, could this be detrimental to democracy? Is it possible it hurts our political ability to focus on what trully matters to most and to come up with the best ideas on how to effectively get it?
I don't know, its hard to say. Maybe we need some simulations. But if it were true, then clearly something should be done to address this loophole. Forcing transparency into who spent the money is one possible solution. Maybe you could cap out money each one can spend to speak. There's probably other ways also.
And there are plenty of laws limiting speech for example in schools. So, outright limiting say TV advertising would be completely constitutional and have the side effect of limiting exactly the types of speech you're talking about without constitutional issues.
If you're on the left you more likely than not like Michael Moore movies. They are often very political. Should they be banned? That was the topic that came up in Radiolab.
Citizens United, inspired by Michael Moore's movies, decided they wanted to do the same thing. Someone decided Citizens United didn't have the same rights to release movies with a political message as Michael Moore and the studios that funded and distributed his movies. The Supreme Court I think saw the problem. Where does it end? Is Transformers political speech? Is Sense8 political speech? Is Milk?
I don't know how to solve the issue of getting money out of politics but I can at least see the argument that deciding which movies are political and which are not is not as easy as it sounds. Maybe Michael Moore's movie should have been prevented from release within N months before the election? I think that was the actual law used to prevent Citizen's United's movie coming out even though Moore's came out within the same type of time frame before an election.
Further, there are many options out there which don't involve spending money to spread a message. Write a book and you can be paid to spread your message. If don't have the time a YouTube commentator can also get paid as can bloggers etc.
Granted saying ideas that can't spread virally can't spread at all may not be great. But, it does offer some forms of protection and IMO is more in spirit with the core idea of Democracy.
This is used by just about everyone, "Save the Whales!" and "Think of the Children!" are calls to action without support. They boil down to "Do this!" as a slogan and it works.
Propaganda can also frame issues, saying "Job Creators!" ignores the demand side of the equation. Without revenue companies will fire people, but the people doing the firing are still defined as "Job Creators!" Use automation and replace 1/2 the workforce with robots and their "Creating high paying jobs in automation!" It's not about changing people's minds it's about changing how people think.
Trickle down at least pretends to have an argument. This is closer to a religious. "We must appease the people on high that make everything work, (with tax breaks or whatever)"
You use the fact people who won't listen unless you spend money won't hear your message.
> Spending money is how people with novel ideas expose it to more people and can hope to compete against established ideas that don’t need to be marketed.
It's also how you mix and dilute your idea into an ocean of meritless crap that nobody would care about unless someone spent money to have the likes of Facebook and Google shout it at them.
It particularly cements the idea that the only way to get novel (usually you'd aim for "good") ideas heard is by paying money to Facebook, Google or that other big media conglomerate (where their money buys "nation-wide local" "news").
Problem is, people with the good novel ideas are usually not the parties with a lot of money (because both are statistically rare).
And that means that the parties with a lot of money will decide which people get heard at all. Regardless whether they have good ideas, novel ideas, or even remotely plausible ideas.
They could be upset about paying money directly or indirectly to the poiticians.
i.e. perhaps it is fine spending money trying to lecture politicians, but not giving the money to politicians and policymakers.
Honestly, I think the best system is to just allow unlimited donations directly to candidates, with full disclosure.
Money isn’t actually that much of a problem in my opinion. Look at how much Jeb spent in the primaries, only to get savaged by Trump, who spent barely anything.
The general control of politics by the “rich and powerful” isn’t because they spend money on campaigns, it’s because the social class represented by them, the top 20% (college-educated professionals, typically working in large urban areas), controls culture, media, ideas, and expertise. Regulatory capture doesn’t happen because of corruption, but because the people with the expertise tend to be the ones who work in the industry being regulated.
I'm actually curious what is the real percentage, but it's got to be way less than 20%. You surround yourself with people like you, but there's a lot of people and the world is big.
Per the US Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, at least 27.24% of the voting-age (18+) population has at least a Bachelor's degree. That’s based on the number from the Over 25 population meeting that description divided by the whole over-18 population; for some reason they only report a count of over-25 with at least a bachelor's degree. 
Turnout increases significantly with education , so the share of the actually voting population with such a degree must be even higher.
So, you were right to suspect 20% was way off—just in the wrong direction.
 (Description page) https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/voting-a...
(Data table) https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/tables/voting/...
Does't cost much. Is pretty effective.
Huge sums of money is really only needed for GOTV and propaganda.
Please explain how the actions you list have any chance of successfully promoting anything but already popular ideas.
And would it be okay for Fox News or CNN to engage in propaganda, and spend billions of dollars on it, as long as it’s under the guise of journalism? Are judges going to start ruling on what is propaganda and what is news?
I encourage you to head to your closest legislative body (city hall, county council, state legislature), just to see what they're doing. (In person.) If something's on the agenda that piques your interest, sign-in to speak.
Then keep doing it.
There's got to be something under discussion that warms your belly. Once you find it:
Call any of your reps (city, county, state, federal) and ask for a 5 min appointment. Show up with a one pager summary of your position. Show up, say "Hi!", thank them for their service (even if you don't mean it), hand them your paper, tell them why your issue is important to you. See what happens.
Or just figure out when your locals are doing public meetings, town halls, events. Just show up, see what other people are working on. For example, my state reps have a joint monthly beer & hotdog event. Maybe 20-50 people show up (depending on the weather) and talk about whatever. I love just eavesdropping, seeing what people are working on.
Then take it to the next level. Find your allies. Get them to support your position. For instance, you could have your local party (whatever flavor) pass resolutions, which you then bring to your reps, to demonstrate support for your position.
Policy work is a tough marathon. But anyone can do it. Just hang out, note who gets things done, copy their methods. Camp Wellstone has a road show for activist training, which is fantastic. Many many other orgs do the same.
My friends work on and have milestone achievements on marijuana legalization, marriage equality, campaign financing, DREAM ACT, family leave, increasing the minimum wage, etc, etc.
The biggest impact any of us can have is on the local level. The cliche is that states are incubators of democracy. Well, cities are the incubators of states.
While the federal government is AWOL, it's left a huge vacuum, which many states, counties, cities have chosen to fill.
The opportunities have never been more insurmountable (h/t Yogi Bera).
How about you worry about the low-hanging fruit first: the 50/50 problem.
You might as well NOT have a democracy if the outcome of elections is artificially/politically restricted to be as close to 50/50 as possible.
You know the saying, "democracy is not perfect but it's still better than all the alternatives"?
50/50 is a failure mode of democracy.
All of the ways that democracy is better than the alternatives fall apart unless you fix this first: It's the largest possible minority that is unhappy with the outcome (50%). And it's the easiest to corrupt and manipulate behind the scenes: Any corrupt influence can easily tip the scales one way or another, creating a huge incentive for having this alternate battle field that doesn't have much to do with the will of the people at all.
You can have your anonymous speech once you get your democracy back on track. Talk about throwing the horse before the bus. You can't dispose of a round baby when you have a square kitchen sink.
What about anyone funding a tenancy advocacy organisation being added to a 'do not rent to this person' list?
What about people funding pro-choice organisations being added to 'unchristian lists' so christian employers check if their beliefs coincide.
The potential abuses of forcing disclosure for all donations are considerable.
I can see that laws should be followed. But from a moral point of view your outrage seems overblown.
(Eg first-past-the-post is much more damaging to your democracy than a penny here or there.)
The airwaves are actually viewed as a collectively owned resource that is managed by the government. You own a slice of spectrum in a somewhat real way. You dont own any part if the internet except your home networking equipment.
But. Northern Ireland, due to its history of political violence, does not require the origin of donations to be reported. Therefore someone "laundered" a >£500k donation through the DUP to the Brexit Leave campaign.
This also ties into the ongoing "fake news"/Facebook/Cambridge Analytica inquiry; how much stuff was posted to Facebook on behalf of whom that should have been considered advertising, and how was it paid for? Dominic Cummings is currently refusing to answer questions to a parliamentary committee, on the grounds that he's already being investigated by the police and the ICO.
Seems to be overstating the case just a tad. Less than a million, in total, for Google at least. That's two or three engineer-years. It's substantially below the noise threshold.
I mean, Google should comply, yes. No question. But I don't really see any evidence that the failure to comply was willful. It looks like instead the requests of the two gentlemen cited in the suit simply didn't make it to the right people.
And that's why you hire an army of compliance officers, which is what Google already has. There is no excuse.
Google is still responsible for their actions, just like you and me.
If you need an example (which you should not) I worked for a small (~100 employee) phone company and we complied with all tax laws nationwide at a federal, state, county and municipality level. That’s a lot of regulation. It was a lot of work. We did it. What’s Google’s excuse?
It looks to me like Google knew what they were doing, knew what the penalties could be and decided it was worth it.
And it isn't some odd law that the company would easily forget about - FB and Google both get their revenue from advertising, and political advertising disclosure laws are pretty common. While Washington might have some stricter rules, I'd expect the companies to have a division working on compliance.
It would appear the amount of money appears to be relatively unimportant.
Don't forget the whole brewhaha over the measily $47k  of Facebook ads purchased by Russian agents.
The new base-model SUV that changed the world.
Your estimates are not based on average salary anywhere that I'm familiar with.
I read the legal complaint against Google. If hand delivering a letter to the physical office is not good enough then fire the receptionist and lock the doors.
I'm sick of pretending like not knowing the right way to contact a company that hide from the public is the fault of the person attempting to contact the company.
I mean it's changing, but these multinational companies have "bypassed" (ignored and gotten away with) normal sale laws for various reasons in so many ways.
Similar to physical laws and hiring engineers.
Ebay and Amazon have always claimed that any transaction happening on their systems was akin to selling your grasmower to your neighbor. Because, as far as they knew, that was what's happening. They only introduce buyer and seller and have nothing to do with what happens next.
Perhaps this was a semi-reasonable assumption before ebay got into accepting payments (and created several billion dollar companies with that act). For Amazon, I don't understand how this was ever accepted, but I'd bet a great deal of money Jeff Bezos somehow had assurances this interpretation was going to stick. It would have been very, very painful otherwise.
I'm pretty sure no lawyer in 1995 (or now) would have advised you in writing that this is a reasonable approach to take.
It seems that TFA hints at the fact that political ad funding is public and requires proper recordkeeping. Does that mean that when someone sees "This message paid by friends of Mr. Foo", one can write to the TV/radio/website and request more information about "friends of Mr. Foo?"
The State of Washington, though, as well as the City of Seattle, have somewhat unusual laws that requires substantially more. They have a law on the books aimed at TV channels and newspapers requiring that all political ad spending be disclosed in full by the companies that sold the advertising. Like, totally. And the records basically need to be available for immediate public inspection. So in theory you should be able to walk into a newspapers office and ask to see the big book of political advertising purchases and see exactly who spent how much and exactly what they bought.
What does that mean for companies like Facebook? It's hard to say! I live in Seattle and there's been a fun bit of ongoing drama when a reporter for our local paper, "The Stranger," thought to try it out and simply walked into the Facebook and Google offices and asked to see the books. It's been a fun bit of local political news drama for a while now, and it's just escalated a bit.
Here's a link to all of the recent pieces by the original investigator of all this: https://www.thestranger.com/authors/12168/eli-sanders
Here's Seattle's law: https://library.municode.com/WA/seattle/codes/municipal_code...
The important bit that everybody's gonna fight over what it means is this: "Each commercial advertiser that has accepted or provided political advertising during the election campaign shall maintain open for public inspection...The exact nature and extent of the advertising services rendered."
The authors of the U.S. Constitution had some pretty strong ideas on the idea of bribery; in fact, it's explicitly listed in Article 2, Section 4 as an impeachable offense. The public has a right to know when its politicians and government officials are receiving money (or goods and services) from outside entities.
You can't claim to be an attorney or a doctor if you're not one, but as far as I know that's the limit of any restrictions.
- it’s barely outrageous
- doesn’t seem to be about the first amendment
- nor is it much of a violation
What other forms of speech would you, personally, like to see require government registration?
(I’m sure there’s more, but those come immediately to mind.)
Political speech, on the other hand, is exactly what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. You cannot have a participatory democratic republic without it, any more than you can defend one without arms.
Disagree? Great, there's a process in place for amending the Constitution. We should either follow the process or follow the document. Those are the only legitimate options.
In practice, I'm not sure sufficiently rich people face any practical limits in influencing elections.
You can’t even differentiate between people and corporations. Because otherwise the government could tell the New York Times to stop writing articles against trump. After all they are a for profit corporation.
It’s a tough spot.
It's not a particularly tough spot except from the perspective of very strong textual literalism.
If you happen to want to say something nice about one candidate or mean about another in the airtime you bought it's hard to argue that's not covered by free speech rights.
You can argue that this has perverse effects - but the courts have consistently held that free speech has wide latitude even when it has negative effects. Exceptions are extremely limited and the harm has to be immediate and direct.
Assuming that's not desired, the question then becomes how best to balance free speech with equalizing commercial political speech.
Yes, there are downsides to unfettered speech, but freedom means having to let other people do things I don't like, and in exchange, I can do things they don't like.
If the problem is that money can buy unlimited federal power, then you can limit the federal powers available for purchase without curtailing the freedom of the citizenry to engage in political speech as they choose.
This is an excellent point.
(a) The money has an outsized power to argue for an increase in available powers as I said upthread since I couldn't reply here.
(b) Democracies seem to work better and more stably when votes make a difference. If there's a full house of people wanting to shift in a certain direction the democratic principle is that the shift in that direction should happen. Otherwise democracy becomes a sham and its institutions shed trust. This creates precisely the atmosphere for antidemocratic or unliberal people to gain power. If you can vote for someone who supports your views but they can't implement them while they're operating in the system, why not vote for someone who supports your views and is willing to ignore the system to get it. And what will all checks and balances do in that environment!
If you like liberal government (in the traditional sense not the partisan sense), the most effective way to get it is to encourage liberal preferences in the electorate.
Past that, local elections already matter more in one's day to day life than federal elections, and those votes will have even more value as the role of the states grow.
For instance, this thread is about a state pursuing large tech companies on what can be described as free speech violations.
But I've never seen anyone argue that it's okay for a state government to ban free speech, but it's not okay for the federal government.
Which in my opinion is a broadly false assumption, and ignores the very point of a federal republic, which is federalism. People in different states have different cultures, different norms, different geographies, different natural resources, different pastimes, different porn habits, different cuisines, etc.
State legislatures are closer to their voting populace than federal legislatures, and thus, people's interests can be more directly reflected by voting more locally.
I agree that a state trampling on your rights is functionally no better than if a federal government does so, but you have more recourse against a state government doing so, more opportunities for remedy, and more ways in which to steer the ship right where those violations are regular.
As for having better oversight of state governments compared to federal governments, I think the US, Canada and Australia (i.e. all the major English-speaking federations and therefore the extent of my knowledge) have had significant problems with corruption at a state level but not so significant problems with corruption at a federal level.
Federal systems have important roles especially when -- unlike in the US -- the state borders reproduce cultural or settlement boundaries. But empirically this role is not a protection of rights. If the federal government needs more members of congress to function right, you can't say "oh we've got state governments" -- you've just gotta increase the size of congress. (FWIW, some states like California also need to take this lesson.) And if you need to protect rights, the only place to do that is in the public sphere and the community mind. Every other option might be easier but they're also much more short sighted.
Not so. I'm not advocating the elimination of the federal government, nor am I advocating for a reduction in the role of the courts. The 14th amendment exists, incorporates the inalienable rights in the constitution against the states, and I believe that is just and true.
That said, yes, there are logical, rational disputes on what rights allow one to do or not do, and yes, those rights are treated differently within arbitrary geographical boundaries. This is true today. There are people in jail right now for marijuana possession because they got caught with it in the wrong state, but that pales in comparison to the number of people who were jailed for marijuana because its illegality was imposed upon them by federal decree. Similarly so with immigration, gun rights, and a variety of other topics.
The law isn't settled on every subject, and there are often reasonable interpretations by well-meaning people in either direction. Having the federal government set policy clearly doesn't solve for every edge case, and I maintain that if you are caught up in a "bad place" by an interpretation of rights that disfavors you, it's a lot easier to relocate from say, California to Arizona (or vice versa) than to have to abandon America because it disfavors your rights.
If, for example, states were allowed to implement current TSA procedures as they preferred, you would likely have states competing on rubrics of security, while others competed on efficiency, or perhaps traveler friendliness. Now, instead of alienating travelers from abroad from visiting America, perhaps they are only alienated from flying into certain states.
As for the corruption angle, again, I'm not proposing we abolish the federal government, merely reduce its workload so that it can function better as a watchdog over the states to prevent and squash corruption. Having better representation locally and federally is of course a good thing, and especially so as it better empowers the adversarial system to hone in on those things that we all do agree upon, and protect those rights from being infringed upon.
Lastly, I'm not suggesting that it's a silver bullet, and that any of my ideas "solve" America, but I do think they improve upon the checks and balances that we're used to having, and allow for more freedom within American borders than we currently have, and more insulation from the legal interpretations of presidents as they are elected, and I think that's a net good.
If you live in a state that really believes in state representation, like New Hampshire or Vermont, then your representative likely only has 3 or 4 thousand constituents.
This means I can pop into their office and lodge complaints or show support in person, am more likely to talk to them in town halls, and I'm competing with fewer letters or phone calls for access. I've spoken in person to my state representatives many times on a variety of issues, but I've never gotten better than a (very much delayed) form letter from my federal representatives.
Past that, in many municipalities, your judges and DAs are often elected, meaning you have influence over the course and nature of their platforms. If you want to see criminal justice reform, less qualified immunity for police officers, etc., you have far more capacity for influence over state and local legislatures than you do at a federal level.
I suppose my counterpoint would come from the outsized effect "national level" money can have when it randomly falls on local elections (e.g. $50M on the GA-6  for a special term that only ran until this year).
It seems like there's a certain "supported by people outside of our community" distaste to mega-funding, but I'm not going to kid myself and imagine it's irrelevant either.
I think I'd agree with you more if there were greater voter turnout.
But then, my ideal democracy is a minimal, voter-defense-esque test to register to vote + voting days as holidays + tax rebate for voting. Essentially, everything you could do to increase turnout of informed voters.
Past that, voter engagement is a tricky thing. It's easy to know what things we want to vote for, but it's hard to know whether or not those things are economically feasible unless we're economists. Trump's tax cuts, for example, had experts saying that through economic growth would pay for itself, while other experts have said there's no way that's possible. Similarly so with Bernie Sanders' health care proposals. See the recent pension crisis affecting Detroit, and may still cause strife in municipalities all over. Employee pensions are exactly the sort of thing I might vote for, only to find out 30 years down the road that it literally destroyed my town's government.
It's harder and harder to be informed without being a multi-doctorate + JD, and we keep voting ourselves favors from the public largesse without knowing if they'll work or not. Tax too little, and infrastructure and services fall off. Tax too much, you experience capital flight, and infrastructure and services fall off.
The wisdom of the masses isn't always, or even usually wise.
Watching recent history, I have a sneaking suspicion these same issues are why democratic nation-building has been such a failure.
Expecting a country to transition from 0 to democracy in one generation is probably impossible. Especially when it becomes apparent that even elder democracies are mostly held together by the strength of their institutions in times of strain.
Democracy works if everyone is educated, but as you pointed out, encounters substantial issues when (a) the problems at hand are too complex to be understood or (b) the knowledgeable vote (on both+ sides) is drowned out by an easily-swayed vote (e.g. for passion-arousing issues like free trade or immigration).
If I were attempting to build a democracy, I'd instead attempt to compress ~1000 years of European history into ~100 years of gradual government transformation. But probably start with a monarchy...
"If the problem is that money can buy unlimited federal power, then you can limit the federal powers available for purchase without curtailing the freedom of the citizenry to engage in political speech as they choose."
And where do you think that power is going to go? It's not going to disapear into the ether.
I may be missing something obvious, but how do you suggest this could be done?
Limit the scope and power of the Interstate Commerce Clause. Most modern interpretations are based on Wickard v. Fillburn's "Well, if everybody did it, it might affect interstate commerce" interpretation, which I find flawed, and which gives the federal government outsized power over the states. It is through ICC power, for example, that the federal government was putting state-legal dispensary workers in federal prison, for example.
States need to reclaim their 10th amendment rights. We've seen an uptick in that recently, with many states adopting gay marriage in defiance of DOMA, or allowing marijuana usage in defiance of federal law, or more recently with Vermont (or maybe CT?) allowing prescription drugs to be purchased from out of country.
Disallow regulatory bodies from having effective power to make laws. Laws should be made by Congress, and so long as agencies are beholden to the executive, and they can make rules that have law-making power, congress has abrogated its duty, and gives far too much power to <insert president's name here>.
Past that, you achieve electoral results the same way you achieve any political end -- voting in the people who espouse your aims, voting out those who don't. You know who to vote for by maintaining your political savvy, from reading both sides of news articles, by holding both sides accountable, even when you happen to like them, and by being eternally vigilant to the laws, the law makers, and exploring the intended and unintended side effects of "good" laws.
No, that is most certainly a bug. The rise of ALEC in power is in no way, shape, or form a "feature".
"Disallow regulatory bodies from having effective power to make laws."
They already do not have this power. They have the power that Congress delegated to them. And now, you're asking that Congress be the one to take up things like air quality regulations, or food safety regulations. Which, to be honest, has the same effect as saying that you don't want those things regulated at all.
Not liking how something is done doesn't mean it doesn't need to be done.
I'd be a big fan of DACA, for example, or even more open borders, if that could be passed by Congress. I am not a fan of it having been executed though executive order, especially given that it's now become a game of political chicken.
> They already do not have this power
Regulations are legally binding to those that are regulated. Everyone rightly considers net neutrality to be a law, or at least, it was, until the regulatory agency in charge of it decided it wasn't. I'm saying this shouldn't be in the purview of agencies, because that puts it in the hand of the executive branch, which means that Trump has the power to make law, which is expressly not a function of the executive branch.
I'm happy for those agencies to exist. I'm happy for those agencies to be tasked with research, expert opinions, recommendations as to what the laws should be, and even doing the work to draft and submit bills to minimize the workload on Congress, which is their function. I'm not okay with them unilaterally passing regulations without the express (not tacit) consent of Congress. Those regulations deserve more than a public commentary period, they deserve open debate and floor votes with votes on the record for where our politicians stand.
> No, that is most certainly a bug.
Again, I disagree, and I can only assume you're referencing ALEC out of some preconceived notion that I'm not espousing. Regardless, you'll note that I don't go so far as to suggest that gridlock is a feature, but adversarial procedure is, as it means that the legislation that does get past is only that which is tenable to a broad enough faction of the electorate.
The central tenet is "If money can be used to buy votes, then how do you have a democracy?"
Nothing you've said above seems to address that, nor anything I can think of, in a world with an absolute right to spend money to promote ones own or preferred speech.
What is that strong support? We routinely see very well-moneyed campaigns lose. In the very last election in the US the losing candidate outspent the winning one - if you look at Super-PAC spending (which is the one considered most "dark and dangerous", right?) the losing campaign had gathered 3x from the winning one ($189.4M against $59.3M). Somehow turned out having money is not enough. So I'd like to see what you call "strong empirical support".
We see it every so often, but I really don't think we see it often, and we don't see the very well moneyed campaign lose to a campaign run on a shoestring.
Correlation is not causation, but congressional campaigns in 2012 that outspent their opponent won 91% of the time .
One of the clearer links is to voter turnout. I've read it takes between $5-20 to reliably motivate a voter to vote. Sans this minimum level of funding, your supporters don't go to the polls, and you don't win.
As for the 2016 election you note, general consensus is that the difference in funding was largely erased by media time (itself one of the primary reasons to spend money in the first place!), where Trump's approach held a clear (and cheap) advantage .
More broadly speaking, post-Citizens, we're in an era where we actually don't know how much "money with intent of political influence" is being spent. It's legally debatable enough that a group can now say, "This is my personal or commercial speech, so I'm not registering with the FEC."
Ah, of course, you have the minimum funding to get your message out, I do not doubt that for a minute. There's a minimum level beyond which you can not mount a successful campaign. But beyond that level, the link between dollars and votes becomes much less direct and obvious.
> general consensus is that the difference in funding was largely erased by media time
Yeah, of course, Trump used this trick. But the next one might use another trick. The common thread is that there are many ways to conduct the campaign, and dollars alone do not mean victory.
> we're in an era where we actually don't know how much "money with intent of political influence" is being spent.
Not exactly, but organizations with influence on national scale are not exactly invisible, and their ad spending is not secret too. I mean, you can't exactly hide a public electoral ad, right? And knowing how much ads were run (public info) and what is a typical spot price for an ad (public info), and the same for rallies, etc. one can estimate the spending if not entirely accurately, then with enough accuracy to be able to reason about it, I think. Of course, this does not account for things like free airtime given by networks to a popular entertaining personality or other ways to buy exposure for cheap, but this only underlines the point that dollars is not everything.
As for advertising dollars, you could absolutely hide a public ad in 2016 by buying through Facebook, not declaring yourself, and targeting a subset of users.
And Citizens even gives you (not great, but some) legal cover if you're caught. "My ad was an artistic work sharing my own viewpoint." Done.
State / city level, but someone else tuned me into this still running, funny-but-not-funny story in Seattle, in which an reporter decided to walk up to Facebook and Google and ask for election transparency documents they were legally obligated to provide under a 1977 city law.
Tl;dr, they didn't keep relevant records, didn't have any idea about the law, and are still scrambling to be compliant.
I find it fascinating that the implication is the global company has to be aware of and compliant with any city law that any tiny city council (I am not saying Seattle is tiny, but if Seattle can do it, why Rusty Sticks, Flyover State can't?) passed 40 years ago. I seriously wonder how one can do business in such environment? I guess for a Facebook it's just breadcrumbs and they could hire whatever lawyers needed to fend it off and pay whatever fines they might be assigned without even flinching - but imagine you are just a startup and you have to comply with the same web of laws?
> If the problem is that money can buy unlimited federal power, then you can limit the federal powers available for purchase without curtailing the freedom of the citizenry to engage in political speech as they choose.
That's completely not a solution.
But if Jo Squillionaire wants people to have the freedom to contract their labor to a certain company indefinitely in the future, then Jo Squillionaire has the capacity to advertise enough to buy back that right. But I don't necessarily have the capacity to contradict him.
A more effective solution would simply be to limit a person's capacity to accrue wealth. If there's proper income and/or wealth taxes in place people can be rich enough without being too rich.
I believe this is what Brandberg v Ohio established as the test of "imminent lawless action"
Why is Anderson Cooper allowed to spread his opinions with the aid of a multi hundred million dollar distribution system but I can’t buy 2000 dollars of Facebook ads?
Limits on funding speech are limits on speech.
I know that’s a tangent from your main point but couldn’t resist :).
I entirely disagree. Everyone has the same amount that they can give. Everyone has exactly the same rights.
And if you really wanted to make everyone equal, you'd have to ban celebreties and the media from talking about campaigns. Bill Maher's TV show is worth millions in advertising dollars.
Limit on what? On speaking about politics? On buying ads? On paying people to write about politics? On hiring consultants to develop advertising strategies? On speaking about anything government cares about? So if NYT spends $1000 per subscriber on politicial writer's salaries in March, it has to be shut down until the next January because it's over the political speech limit?
This of course sounds insane, because you can't put limit on spending money on speech without putting limits on actual speech. Because it's one and the same - publishing speech costs money, and money is the way to get speech published.
Fortunately, US still has freedom of speech, which is not measured in dollar limits.
(And clearly they mean a limit on political contributions, which is something that many countries do successfully. Ours used to be one of them. I hope you're not as ignorant on the topic as your hysterical straw man suggests, but if you are I'd suggest a little reading. E.g. this Brookings working group has many perspectives: https://web.archive.org/web/20010406114712/https://www.brook... .)
The fact that you can write stuff on internet forums for free doesn't mean it is free. It means somebody else is paying for it - for example, in exchange for showing you ads (which the advertiser - surprise! - pays for), selling your personal data or sometimes just out of charitable spirit. However, if you need to do a massive communication effort, it is not nearly free. And if you have ever built a campaign site (I have) you know it is nowhere near "free". Your resume shows you participated in multiple internet projects, so I am astonished how you can condescendingly claim it's "free" while knowing full well from your own experience it is nowhere near that. Unless, of course, you want to confine your campaign to /r/irrelevant.
Ah yes, our era's Dred Scott decision.
What I think about brexit isn't fit to print. What matters in context, is the abuse of the funding model to distort the inputs to the process. And, that feels (to me) what is at the heart of the complaint from Washingon state about FB and Google.
When people use social media to try and influence public opinion heading to votes of any kind, be they elections, or referendum, or plebescite, I think the money behind that social media should be declared and understood.
Most states have voter rolls which are covered by open record laws, will release personal information on all registered voters. Address included.
I'm not sure why this law strikes you as so crazy. Most individuals aren't making independent political ad buys.
I have to publish my address and who I donated to, for every crazy loon out there to see and for any employer or other person who could hurt me to retaliate if I support a wrong one? That sounds insane.
No wonder people like to contribute to PACs. With requirements like that, it's plain crazy not to use an intermediary.
> Most states have voter rolls which are covered by open record laws
Voter rolls just says the person has right to vote, not who he or she is voting for, right?
> I'm not sure why this law strikes you as so crazy.
Complete lack of privacy in the matter which is proven to expose people to harassment, retaliation, threats and violence.
> Most individuals aren't making independent political ad buys.
Probably because it's much safer to do it through an intermediary, I assume.
I think that if you have a political opinion that's so unpopular you're embarrassed to put your name on it there's probably something wrong with it.
Mind you here in NZ we don't let our wackos have guns.
> But deliberately skirting laws governing political spending and public disclosure is rather a bad look for companies under especial scrutiny for systematic dishonesty — primarily Facebook.
So they'll lose face, but not the books ...
Seriously though, come on. I'm getting increasingly cynical about this. This is business as usual in the US. They're not going to self-regulate themselves a conscience.
The article is about what they were paid, as advertising platforms, not what they gave.
> Specifically, “documents and books of account” must be made available for public inspection during the campaign and for three years following; these must detail the candidate, name of advertiser, address, cost and method of payment and description services rendered.
Description services rendered? Did you mean description of services rendered?
Please, let me know if I'm missing something here. These seems like yet another grammatical error in Techcrunch.
Every time I click on a Techcrunch article it is full of grammatical errors and misspellings.
Are they full of factual errors, too? Makes me wonder. If a major online publication like this can't fix missing words, what are their stories worth?
When I read Techcrunch I assume it's no better than a grocery store tabloid.
The source title: "Washington sues Facebook and Google over failure to disclose political ad spending"
In all seriousness, this really should be updated, but somehow omitting "state of" sounds more powerful to me...although I'm not sure why I feel this way?
Obligatory content-related content: If I were the Attorney General, I think a suit like this, whether successful or not, would undoubtedly be one of the high points of my career.
Those of use that really want to know more, will read the article on its own merit, because we’re interested, not because we’re being manipulated into a deeper curiosity than warranted.
Meanwhile, complaining about aggressive journalistic tactics is not forum sliding. Keep in mind, beyond linguistic syntax, semantics and other trivial technical matters, much of HN doesn’t qualify as experts on non-technology-oriented stories, and political tripe. Some articles aren’t colored up very much by HN peanut galleries and bike shedding. This is might be one such instance.
Anyway, when we notice deceptive practices we complain about them.
I also don't agree that such threads drown the conversation. Often they're buried. Sometimes they are a healthy part of the conversation itself. Sometimes there's a passive aggressive argument about whether or not the conversation is healthy and hey maybe even that's healthy!
Or at least, given a substantial visibility penalty.
That's part of the problem not only in the US, but in the West in general at the moment.
That said, when you read the law, it's clear that Google and Facebook are in violation of it. They aren't providing requested political ad spend information to residents of Washington state on the spot. That Google and Facebook don't like a law does not confer to them the right to violate it.
Another example would be New York's (former) AG, Eric Schneiderman, who has filed "over 50 lawsuits opposing Trump's environmental revisions", and of course, actively pursued Harvey Weinstein before resigning due to his own sexual harassment allegations.
I would guess that AG's regularly inserting themselves into the national conversation while being very public about it on Twitter and the like, especially, are prepping for a run at a more national political campaign in the future.
It was announced was it not? I assume all readers are either happy and proud of it or not in which case why shoot the messenger?