Nyugen: Money talks

Phuong Nguyen, Columnist

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The Constitution has been extended further than its original interpretation for some time now. Some decisions based on loose interpretations make sense and are agreeable, but other decisions are quite controversial, especially about free speech.

In June, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled McDonnell v. United States in favor of Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia, unanimously overturning his public-corruption conviction. He was accused of receiving bribes, which he covered as loans, vacation expenses and luxury goods while serving as governor. Following the same argument of Citizens United v. FEC, the justices believe that money is speech.

However I disagree with this interpretation because it is a suppression of weaker speech, a violation of the Constitution and an increase of demands in extrinsic motivation from officials, as well as a limitation of places to speak. Money interference deteriorates democracy. As students, we hope to graduate someday and find jobs. Would it be fair if someone has a larger voice in government because they have a higher paying job? We would find frustration towards the argument that “money is speech” when money is involved in unfair decisions.

The Supreme Court decreed that money is speech, but if you have a lot of money then your voice is louder and more valuable than others. As a result, the bigger voice will dominate and suppress other smaller voices. You may consider that the big voice only makes the smaller voice less likely to be heard; however, I would emphasize that the smaller actually is deprived their freedom of speech. As in this case, when the rich use their money as speech to influence the lawmakers, policy-makers and political executives, it gives them a greater voice in the government without becoming an elected official. This, in turn, may prevent the poor from being heard as loudly. It becomes a vicious cycle that is familiar to everyone: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Secondly, giving money to elected officials in order to gain access will increase and create a habit of asking for money from the people. Officials will not act from their intrinsic motivations to help citizens, but they will wait for the money from the people first, then decide to act on the people’s will. This is not what elected officials are. Officials in a democracy are elected to fulfill the wishes of the people, and they are already paid through taxes.Therefore, the extrinsic motivation will dominate and ruin the incentive for officials to work for the people. This would cause a fundamental dilemma in a democratic culture.

Furthermore, while the Constitution was not crafted initially with thoughts of minorities in mind, it has been amended in order to protect the rights of all citizens, and especially the freedom of speech of the minority. By protecting money as speech, the Supreme Court is giving a stronger voice to the rich. Applying money as speech in this context to influence officials in making decisions should not be admissible. It is just a pretext of hiding crimes, or the beginning of corrupt bargains.