Politics on the taxpayer’s dime

Greg Smith, Assistant Opinions Editor

Our position: In the interest of preventing the government from subsidizing certain speech and preventing others, the government should not allow organizations that receive public funding to donate to political campaigns, but should not make any further regulation of campaign finance other than prohibiting bribery.

Mass shooting crimes, especially in schools, seem to be a growing problem in the United States. Since the recent one in Parkland, Fla., the National Rifle Association’s “blood money” has taken the bulk of the blame from media coverage and survivors of the crime.

nt months, the media have given an outrageous amount of coverage to the NRA’s supposed grip on politicians, especially members of congress, with its money. This assertion is really nothing more than a media dog whistle. The NRA, first of all, contributes very little to political campaigns compared to other organizations. In the 2016 election cycle, the NRA donated about $1 million to PACs and campaigns for federal candidates.

More importantly, organizations like the NRA that do not receive public funding should be free to do whatever they see fit with their money, because donations to political campaigns are expressions of opinions. It’s not a problem that the NRA uses millions more in outside spending and lobbying, because the taxpayer is not forced to pay for that spending or to endorse the NRA’s political goals.

Planned Parenthood donated about four times as much as the NRA in the same cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Planned Parenthood has received public funding since the 1970s. Whether or not abortion is healthcare, Planned Parenthood is a powerful organization with a political agenda. The government has let Planned Parenthood’s political speech to be subsidized by giving it money and allowing that money to be donated to political campaigns. It is wrong for money collected by the government in taxes to be used to advance one political agenda over another.

There is an important debate to be had surrounding these issues that begins with the role of government. Does “promoting the general welfare” mean administering justice, enforcing private property rights, and defending from aggression, as Adam Smith believed? Or does it also include providing services such as healthcare to citizens? And what services does “healthcare” include? Is abortion murder? These are crucial questions that society should debate, but when the government gives money to an organization such as Planned Parenthood and allows that money to be used politically, it obscures the debate by giving one side an advantage. This practice is dishonest and unjust.

Donations to political campaigns are a form of speech. Speech in this country is free, so the Koch brothers and George Soros are free to do whatever they want with their money, besides bribery. But the government should not be able to sponsor certain political speech with taxpayer money because it corrupts the democratic process.