Congress Shall Make No Law...
6:41 PM
Who's Afraid of Foreign Speakers?

If you follow campaign finance, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the latest trumped-up non-scandal involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  President Obama and others have accused the Chamber of using money from foreign affiliates to fund ads attacking Democratic candidates.


As both PolitiFact and report, there is no evidence to support these charges.  But apart from the veracity of the charges, this latest round of campaign finance hysteria raises an important question:  Why should we care if foreign money is paying for political ads?


The last time I checked, non-U.S. citizens weren’t allowed to vote in our elections.  Come November 2nd, all of our electoral decisions are going to be made by American voters.  What the President and so-called “reformers” are really objecting to, then, is that those Americans’ vote choices might be influenced by advertisements paid for by foreigners.


But so what?  Corporations owned by foreigners have been influencing American elections for years and we’re no worse for it.  As an astute commenter at Instapundit wryly noted:


“There’s a corporation, part-owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, that keeps making electioneering communications. Where are the demands to shut up the New York Times Company? Where is the outrage?”


Of course, the New York Times Company isn’t the only corporation with foreign ownership trying to influence American elections.  During the 2008 campaign, numerous foreign newspapers endorsed American presidential candidates.  Indeed, in 2004, the British newspaper the Guardian urged its readers to write to voters in Clark County, Ohio, asking them to vote for John Kerry, and even urged readers to give money to nonprofits whose efforts were likely to increase Democratic turnout.  Despite this foreign influence, Kerry lost Clark County, and—not surprisingly—the Nation endured


Ultimately, this latest “scandal” comes down to two competing visions of the American voter.  One side views voters as empty vessels, waiting to have opinions poured into them by the mass media.  Those who hold this view see the need to carefully control sources of influence, lest our heads be filled with the wrong ideas.


The other view—and the view embodied in the First Amendment—is that voters are thinking human beings.  They can judge for themselves which arguments are most persuasive, and don’t need the government to protect them from dangerous foreign ideas.


I know which view I prefer.