Many voices on the left complained vociferously each time in the past few years that the Supreme Court rolled back unconstitutional campaign finance restrictions. Yet the loosening of the rules on campaign donations and campaign spending are showing positive signs in both the political arena and in an economic one: the advertising sector.
In terms of politics, it should be self-evident that more speech is better than less. The first amendment really only had two points as the Founding Fathers saw it: protect the press so they could expose any government wrongdoing and ensure freedom of speech for political arguments. Nude dancing was not on their minds.
Read the history of the revolutionary period and the early presidential campaigns and you will realize that the campaigns were wild, often dirty, free-wheeling affairs. Todays negative campaigners have nothing on their forefathers of two centuries ago.
New Orleans house with a collection of signs for all the mayoral candidates, with the comment More candidates than voters? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yet, beginning with a perhaps natural reaction to Watergate, a few incumbent politicians who wanted to protect their own reelections by making it harder for non-incumbents to raise money pushed through a series of restrictions on campaign financing, effectively reducing freedom of speech. We should all be glad that we are moving back in the direction of freedom of political speech. And no one has more to be glad about than the political operatives who design and buy advertising time and the corporations who sell the media slots to them.
According to Ashley Parker in The New York Times, spending on political advertising for the 2014 elections is up 70 percent over the last midterm elections in 2010. That will add up to about $2 billion in advertising buys just on House and Senate races with gubernatorial and local races added to that. Media consultants and campaign advisors who help design their candidates media strategy and place the advertising buys commonly earn high salaries and commissions equal to as much as 7 percent of the advertising spending.
That means that media consultants could stand to make $50 million off the increased spending just in the Congressional races. Freedom of speech appears to be excellent for media consultants. The Supreme Courts ruling in Citizens United might have been one of the best stimulus actions of the entire Obama presidency.
For media companies that are selling the advertising space, the increased political advertising is a bit of a mixed bag. Political candidates must be offered time or space for their ads at the lowest rates the outlet has charged to any other advertisers for equivalent spots. That means that more political ads could mean lower revenues for the media companies.
However, there is good news for the media companies as well. In this election cycle, an increased share of the political ads is being bought by outside groups. Outside groups do not benefit from the same preferential pricing, so media companies can charge them higher rates. Thus, the Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United that have made it easier for such groups to operate is a boon to those selling space for political ads.
Political speech is a good thing. When all sides and parties are free to express their opinions and make their case in favor of their causes and candidates, we get better, more informed elections and hopefully better election results.
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Campaign Spending Freedom Is Great For Speech and The Advertising-Media Sector