The End of Political Campaigning As We Know It

by Dave Schuler on April 19, 2014

You know, I think that those who are dismayed over the case before the Supreme Court, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, over whether state laws banning false statements about candidates’ voting records meet Constitutional muster, which George Will kvetches about here have the wrong end of the stick. Here’s a snippet of the Ohio law, quoted by Mr. Will:

An Ohio statute, which resembles laws in at least 15 other states, says, among many other stern things, that: “No person, during the course of any campaign . . . shall . . . make a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official.”

Rather than overturning it, I think that law needs to be extended, by Constitutional amendment if necessary. As I interpret the law, it would prohibit candidates from lying about their own records. Not only could that mark the end of political campaigning as we know it, it could mark the end of politics as we know it.

Of course, there’s that pesky clause in the Constitution. Not the First Amendment, the other pesky clause (Article I, Section 6, Clause 1):

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

The emphasis is mine. That’s been interpreted to render sitting Congressmen immune from prosecution for conduct undertaken in the course of their offices. Which, in turn, would seem to subject challengers to state “false statement” laws while releasing incumbents from them, which seems like dirty pool.

Ah well, one can always dream.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

... April 19, 2014 at 10:56 am

I don’t know that it would change things all that much. How often are sitting pols for something before they’re against it? Procedural votes in legislative bodies allow pols to surround most issues.

michael reynolds April 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm

I have long believed that politicians lie because the people want to be lied to. There is no market for honest politicians.

“The truth is, I’ll just be a congressman, and I’ll mostly just make speeches to an empty chamber. I will not improve your life in any way. But I promise to cast lots of meaningless votes to reinforce your ill-informed opinions and make it seem you have a voice. Now, I’m off to give a handjob to a billionaire so he’ll buy me some TV ad time. Vote for me!”

steve April 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

If it would mean fewer phone calls during campaign season, I would be for it.

Steve

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