Tom Bowden blogs at Voices for Reason about the many states that offer subsidies to filmmakers and the fact that those subsidies increasingly come with strings attached. Tom makes the quite sensible point that subsidies are a violation of taxpayers’ rights not to have to fund films at all, let alone those with which they might disagree.
But this should also remind us that when the government pays the piper, it gets to call the tune. We should keep that in mind as the challenge to Arizona’s misnamed “Clean Elections” Act makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court next term. (The case is being litigated by the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute, which will be filing petitions for review in the U.S. Supreme Court later this summer.)
“Clean Elections” is a euphemism for government funding of political campaigns. Think of it as welfare for politicians. Leave aside the specifics of the program, which we talk about here. All you need to know for present purposes is that public funding programs seek to install government as the “single payer” for all campaign speech.
What are the chances that politicians will not tinker with such programs to give some candidates and groups an advantage over others? Well, consider the fact that the DISCLOSE Act contains a provision that would prevent government contractors and companies that received TARP funds from spending money to speak during elections. There have been calls to restrict the lobbying of companies that received TARP funds as well. And last year, when Humana dared to inform policyholders that the President’s health care plan might force it to cancel certain policies, the government directed the insurer to stop “misleading” people.
The notion that government will leave election speech alone when it funds campaigns is worthy of a Hollywood fantasy, but we shouldn’t take it seriously here in reality.