Going downhill since law school

In the January 1956 issue of the Minnesota Law Review, a precocious third-year law student published a brilliant critique of campaign finance regulations. “The right of persons effectively to present their views on community issues is fundamental to free speech,” he wrote. In addition, he noted, “For many years scholars have urged that limits be removed and that primary emphasis be placed on public disclosure of the facts of campaign financing.” He endorsed the conclusion of those scholars.
Walter Mondale is the author of the anonymous 1956 law review note criticizing campaign finance regulations. I have a copy of the January 1956 Minnesota Law Review issue with the note autographed by Mondale as its author. Mondale contributed the autographed issue to a law school fundraising event in 1978 when he was serving as Vice President.
We wish Walter Mondale the liberal paragon would revisit the wisdom of Walter Mondale the precocious student. In this morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mondale supports the McCain-Feingold law and demonstrates what he has unlearned in the past 50 years.
He sugarcoats the serious infringement of core First Amendment rights that the law effects, discounting the free speech issues raised by the law: “Critics of the law say McCain-Feingold violates the constitutional right to free speech. The law, however, does not ban speech [Query: Is it only a law banning speech outright that violates the First Amendment? Answer: No.] It simply prohibits the use of corrupting soft money to pay for that speech. Parties, interest groups and individuals may still freely spend money to support their candidates, as long as the donations come from ‘hard-money’ sources — limited contributions from individuals that are publicly disclosed. Even groups funded by corporations or labor unions could meet this requirement by setting up a political action committee (PAC), just as thousands of groups did after the Watergate reforms.” For a serious examination of the constitutional problems with these allegedly benign provisions, take a look at “Campaign finance and the First Amendment” by attorney Erik Jaffe.
As a law student, Mondale forthrightly confronted the perils to freedom raised by campaign finance regulation. As a senior liberal statesman, Mondale casually employs the Orwellian bromides that politicians use to anesthetize citizens while they rob them of their freedom. Mondale’s piece is “A high court chance to strengthen democracy.”


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