You Can Thank the Supreme Court for 'Obamajams'

U.S. President Barack Obama greets guests after arriving on Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport on February 15, 2012. | Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The state of California may be low on funds, but many of our residents are not. Yesterday President Obama flew into Los Angeles for one of his seemingly frequent fundraising trips. These trips typically follow a similar pattern: President Obama lands, President Obama creates traffic, President Obama collects money, President Obama creates more traffic, President Obama leaves.

Some have complained that his focus on the Golden State seems to be fundraising, not governing. It is no doubt that the President has made repeated fundraising trips through Los Angeles and other parts of California. But the reality is that candidates needs to raise money in order to keep their jobs, jobs which allow them to govern. As we all know, campaigns depend on money, and presidential campaigns depend on lots and lots of money.

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President Obama isn't to blame for our current campaign finance system, although he hasn't done an enormous amount to try to fix it. For those of you (perhaps those of us) who can get frustrated by the delays and hassles that come with President Obama's fundraising trips, I believe your anger is best directed to the majority of the Supreme Court who, in 1976, essentially found that money is speech. Because of that decision, the number of restrictions by the government on how much people (and corporations) can raise and spend in elections is severely limited. Put another way, money flows relatively freely throughout the political marketplace (The recent Citizens United case greatly exacerbates the '76 decision).

Consider this, if the Supreme Court had found that money spent in political campaigns is something less than pure speech, then the members of the Court likely would have upheld limits on both contributions and expenditures. The endless fundraising race that now takes place in electoral campaigns would cease to exist. We would live in a very different world, one very likely free of Obamajams caused by fundraising trips.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government in Los Angeles every week. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.


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