Campaign Spending And Broadcast Media

Tom Lee wants to get real about money and speech:

I love philosophical abstractions as much as the next guy, but let’s get real: most types of communication are cheap. This is about broadcast media. The money-in-politics discussion is about domination of a small number of more-or-less zero-sum distribution channels, most of which are subject to physical constraints that necessitate a high level of regulation. Your freedom to speak within these channels is already severely limited in both a legal and practical sense.

Well yes and no. Here’s where I agree. If we think about campaign finance in terms of floors rather than ceilings, the regulated status of broadcast media suggests ample opportunities to require the disbursement of free air time to political candidates and other things.

Where I disagree is that there’s more to campaigning than broadcast media. Field organizing and GOTV aren’t free. And I believe broadcast media looks less important when you look away from big national presidential campaigns. Someone mounting a challenge to Peter King on Long Island isn’t going to want to rely primarily on purchasing airtime throughout the entire New York City media market. A city council race in DC, similarly, just can’t be focused on television advertising.