While I wasn’t paying any attention Meg Whitman, former CEO of E-Bay, exercised 80 million dollars worth of free speech to reason her way into the Republican nomination for governor of California. Her arguments were so sound and her positions so clearly defined that she garnered 64% of the vote in a field of 8 Republicans.
Next door, in California’s senatorial primary, Carly Fiorina— former Hewlett Packard CEO—exercised 6.7 million dollars worth of free speech in her fight to oppose Senator Barbara Boxer in November. She only won 56% of the vote, but then her campaign was just whispering compared to Ms. Whitman’s.
Senator Boxer has a bigger war chest (for now) than Ms. Fiorina, but MS. Fiorina has a secret weapon: She doesn’t have bad hair and MS. Boxer does. Golly, Carly, you know how to hurt a gal.
The “money is speech” game is being debated here in Arizona (and soon in the United States Supreme Court) because the citizens of Arizona voted to authorize publicly funded elections…the Clean Elections Law.
We thought that would go along way to even out the political playing field; attract candidates of talent and experience who might not have had the money to run otherwise; and keep one candidate from overpowering another by sheer volume of TV and print advertising.
A kind of safety valve was built into the law. If a non Clean Elections candidate out-spends his or her opponent it triggers an additional allowance to the clean elections candidate. The additional funds are capped at 3 times the original Clean Elections grant.
Now it’s right here that the Clean Elections opponents like Buz Mills and the lawyers of the Goldwater Institute begin to squeal.
Oh, oh, oh, my right of free speech is being denied. I can’t say everything I want without triggering more money for my opponent so she can say everything she wants to say. How unfair!
Well no, perfectly fair. Your right of free speech does not extend to the ability to drown out the free speech of another, which is exactly what happens in our media-driven age if there is a radical imbalance in a candidate’s ability to get her message out.
Live with it.