Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform

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Princeton University Press, Feb 9, 2009 - Political Science - 320 pages

At a time when campaign finance reform is widely viewed as synonymous with cleaning up Washington and promoting political equality, Bradley Smith, a nationally recognized expert on campaign finance reform, argues that all restriction on campaign giving should be eliminated. In Unfree Speech, he presents a bold, convincing argument for the repeal of laws that regulate political spending and contributions, contending that they violate the right to free speech and ultimately diminish citizens' power.


Smith demonstrates that these laws, which often force ordinary people making modest contributions of cash or labor to register with the Federal Election Commission or various state agencies, fail to accomplish their stated objectives. In fact, they have worked to entrench incumbents in office, deaden campaign discourse, burden grassroots political activity with needless regulation, and distance Americans from an increasingly professional, detached political class. Rather than attempting to plug "loopholes" in campaign finance law or instituting taxpayer-financed campaigns, Smith proposes a return to core First Amendment values of free speech and an unfettered right to engage in political activity.


Smith finds that campaign contributions have little corrupting effect on the legislature and shows that an unrestrained system of contributions and spending actually enhances equality. More money, not less, is needed in the political system, Smith concludes. Unfree Speech draws upon constitutional law and historical research to explain why campaign finance regulation is doomed and to illustrate the potentially drastic costs of efforts to make it succeed. Whatever one thinks about the impact of money on electoral politics, no one should take a final stand without reading Smith's controversial and important arguments.

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UNFREE SPEECH: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform

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A contrarian argument against current efforts to reform campaign-finance regulations, arguing that such efforts are counterproductive—and often unconstitutional.Smith (Law/Capital Univ.) opens with a ... Read full review

Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction
3
THE COST OF CAMPAIGNS AND THE PRICE OF REFORM
15
CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS
107
REAL AND IMAGINED REFORM OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE
167
Notes
229
Bibliography
259
Index
279
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Bradley A. Smith is Professor of Law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. As of May 2000, he has been serving a six-year term on the Federal Election Commission.

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