One of the most amusing aspects of the entire anti-Russia brouhaha has been whether President Trump should be impeached for supposedly having violated U.S. campaign-finance laws. The idea is that since Trump received some political dirt from Russians on his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, he violated U.S. law in two ways: One, by accepting a campaign contribution from a foreigner and, two, by failing to report the “contribution.”
The political dirt controversy only goes to show how ridiculous campaign-finance laws are.
The law makes it illegal for “a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation” from a foreigner. Therefore, the argument goes, if a candidate receives political dirt on his opponent, he is guilty of violating the law.
It seems, however, that there is one implicit proviso in the law: Apparently the dirt has to have some value in order for it to constitute a “contribution.” If the dirt has zero value, then no contribution has been made.
Let’s imagine that Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Donald Trump at some foreign gathering. During a private walk between the two of them, Putin whispers into Trump’s ear, “I have some political dirt on Hillary Clinton.” Trump responds, “Really?” Putin responds, “Yes, her husband Bill had an affair with a White House intern while he was serving as president.”
At the very moment that Putin’s information enters Trump’s ear, Trump has violated the law because the law prohibits him from receiving any contribution from a foreigner.
Of course, the question arises: Does the contribution have to have value? If so, then how much is the dirt worth? Some would say that Bill Clinton’s affair is old news and not worth very much at all. But isn’t value in the mind of the beholder? Couldn’t an argument be made that the dirt is worth at least a dollar? Would receiving a dollar worth of dirt on a political opponent be enough to convict or impeach? One can easily imagine either a criminal trial or an impeachment proceeding in which both sides are presenting expert witnesses as to the value of the political dirt in question.
A couple of weeks ago, Trump threw the pro-impeachment crowd, including the mainstream media, into a tizzy by announcing that he wouldn’t hesitate to receive political dirt from the Russians in the future. That remark produced a storm of outrage, which caused Trump to quickly back down and accede to demands that he promise to immediately report the receipt of any such dirt to the to the FBI. That seems to have pacified the pro-impeachment crowd, at least insofar as that issue is concerned.
There is one big problem, however, with reporting the incident to the FBI: It constitutes a confession to having committed the crime, a confession made to a federal law-enforcement agency whose job it is to enforce federal crimes.
Examine the law carefully. It doesn’t say that if you report your crime to the FBI, you are granted automatic immunity from criminal prosecution. It says that if you receive a contribution from a foreigner, you are guilty of a crime. Therefore, in our hypothetical, at the moment that Trump receives the dirt from Putin, he has committed an offense. Going to the FBI and confessing his crime would not seem to be the wisest thing to do.
There is another problem, one that no one seems to care much about: the U.S. Constitution, and specifically the First Amendment, which states in part: Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” The Constitution, of course, is the higher law that supersedes any laws enacted by Congress.
Notice what the First Amendment does not say: It does not say, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech unless the speech is by foreigners or unless the speech constitutes political dirt.” It says, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” Period.
It would be difficult to find a better example of speech than whispering some political dirt into someone’s ear. That’s because whispering necessarily constitutes speech. Therefore, there is no way to reconcile the criminalization of whispering with the express restriction on freedom of speech in the First Amendment.
In fact, another question naturally arises: Why shouldn’t foreigners be free to donate to American political candidates? Why shouldn’t people be free not only to whisper but also to do whatever they want with their money? Isn’t liberty a right that adheres to all people? That’s what the Declaration of Independence says.
Moreover, since foreigners are oftentimes the victims of U.S. bombings, shootings, torture, kidnapping, assassinations, invasions, wars of aggression, undeclared wars, occupations, coups, and other dark-side practices, why shouldn’t they be free to support U.S. candidates who oppose such things?
Supporters of campaign-finance laws say that such laws are necessary to ensure that people with big money aren’t influencing political candidates. Really? How is that working out?
Campaign-finance laws are nothing more than a racket to protect the welfare-warfare party (i.e, Democrats and Republicans) from the competition of third-party candidates and independent candidates, who, in the absence of campaign-finance laws, would be free to secure million-dollar donations from a few supporters, both domestic and foreign, which would enable them to compete against the established and well-funded welfare-warfare party.
A free society entails the right to whisper and to receive whispers from anyone in the world. It also entails the right to do whatever one wants with his own money.