Does money corrupt?
The New York Times has an interesting article on the Supreme Court’s new Chief Justice interrogating of the Vermont Attorney General in a case concerning that state’s campaign finance laws. (HT: Althouse)
The chief justice challenged the attorney general’s assertion that money was a corrupting influence on Vermont’s political system, the state’s main rationale for its law. “How many prosecutions for political corruption have you brought?” he asked the state official.
“Not any,” Mr. Sorrell replied.
“Do you think corruption in Vermont is a serious problem?”
“It is,” the attorney general replied, noting that polls showed that most state residents thought corporations and wealthy individuals exerted an undue influence in the state.
The chief justice persisted. “Would you describe your state as clean or corrupt?” he asked.
“We have got a problem in Vermont,” Mr. Sorrell repeated.
The chief justice pressed further. If voters think “someone has been bought,” he said, “I assume they act accordingly” at the next election and throw the incumbent out.
Justice Roberts wasn’t the only one with concerns.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer said he was concerned that the limits, $400 over a two-year election cycle to candidates for statewide office down to $200 for the state’s House, were so low as to “give incumbents a tremendous advantage” and “really shut off the possibility of a challenge” by a candidate who had to raise and spend more money to make an impact.
Closer to home, Lance Burri does a little math and discovers that the $3.39 million raised by legislative candidates last year “is about 65 cents per capita – that’s what legislators raised in 2005. Less, I’ll bet, than we spend on toilet paper each month.”
So how much is your vote worth?