What this really emancipates are nonprofit advocacy corporations such as the Sierra Club. I pick that not at random because the Sierra Club was fined $28,000 in Florida last year for falling afoul of the incomprehensible, that-thick set of regulations on our political speech.
DONALDSON: Poor Sierra Club, but how about Goldman Sachs? I agree in this case with Mr. Bumble, of Dickens fame. The law is an ass, an idiot.
Here's what the Supreme Court has said. Let's take Mr. Blankfein, who's in charge of Goldman Sachs. He can only give $2,400 of his own money directly to a candidate, but now Goldman Sachs can give millions directly. What if they don't like...
MORAN: They can't give to the candidate. They can spend it for ads in favor of the candidate.
DONALDSON: Yes, exactly. That's right. But they can spend and say, "This man, Barney Frank, has gone too far in trying to restrict us. Let's defeat him. Vote for X." But Blankfein can't give but $2,400. Now, what sense does that make, to say that a corporation, a legal entity, has freedom of speech to give all this money, but I don't?
ROBERTS: Well, and it's not like -- it's not like we're looking for money in politics. It's not like that, you know, we're just starving for cash. You know, the politics is awash in money, and that is really one of the biggest problems.
One of the reasons we've had the kind of stalemates that we've had on Capitol Hill and the reasons that people are doing things that voters don't like very much is because they're spending so much of their time out fundraising, all the time dealing with funders, and not necessarily dealing with the public.
DONALDSON: Yes, but the money needs to be -- have some equality here.
DOWD: I don't know the -- I don't know the, obviously, constitutional law part. The practical application of this is, first, it's not as if news is that corporations and labor unions aren't influencing the process.
Do they have a First Amendment right to, like, influence it more directly? Yes, I think somebody can make that argument, but they are influencing the process. They hire lobbyists. They hire a public affairs firm. They contribute to candidates. They do all that kind of stuff.
I think what this is, is more of an incumbency protection net. Corporations and most large entities will side, as they usually do, with the incumbent, because that's where they think their bread is buttered.
MORAN: And here's the concern, George. Let me just challenge -- because you're the advocate on this. The concern is not just in elections, but when they take votes.
MORAN: They're going take a vote, and they're going to know that, if they vote the wrong way, Wall Street can spend against them, the insurance industry can spend against them, directly, right up to the day of the election.
WILL: A mountain of social science has failed to demonstrate that campaign contributions as opposed to the convictions of the legislator and of his constituents determine how someone votes.
Cokie says we're awash in money. All federal elections last year, $5 billion, Congress up to the president, exactly -- almost exactly what the country spends on tortilla chips. This is not -- we're not awash in money. This is a rich country.